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It's the Superman of space rocks. A mysterious meteorite that crashed to Earth last year may have been the toughest of its kind.
The Carancas meteorite struck the town of that name in Peru last September, blowing a hole in the ground 13 metres wide. The fact that locals saw a single object strike suggests a meteorite made of iron, like the one that created a similar crater in 1990 in Sterlitamak, Russia, because stony meteorites normally fragment high above the Earth and spread relatively harmlessly over a wide area. However, the debris found by investigators was stone.

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Professor Peter Schultz, an expert in extraterrestrial impacts from Brown University, has come to interesting conclusions that could upend the conventional wisdom about the size and type of meteorites that can strike Earth. His recent findings regarding the meteorite that crashed into the Peruvian countryside on September 15, 2007, are surprising.
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Last September, something strange landed near the rural Peruvian village of Carancas. Two months later, so did Peter Schultz.
One was an extraterrestrial fireball that struck the Earth at 10,000 miles per hour, formed a bubbling crater nearly 50 feet wide and afflicted local villagers and livestock with a mysterious illness. The other is the Brown geologist who may have figured out why.

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Title: WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CARANCAS-DESAGUADERO FIREBALL, METEORITE AND IMPACT CRATER?
Authors: G. Tancredi, J. I****suka, D. Rosales, E. Vidal, A. Dalmau, D. Pavel, S. Benavente, P. Miranda, G. Pereira, V. Vallejos, M. E. Varela, F. Brandstätter, P. Schultz, R. S. Harris, L. Sánchez.

On September, 15th, 2007, close to noon local time, a bright fireball was observed and heard in the southern shore of the Lake Titicaca, close to the border between Peru and Bolivia. Many peasants and residents of the town of Desaguadero (Peru) and Guaqui (Bolivia) observed the fireball from East to West. The peasants of the Com-munity of Carancas, 10km south of Desaguadero, that were watching out their llamas and alpacas, heard a big explosion and observed the formation of a mush-room cloud. Minutes after, in the point of explosion, they found a ~15m hole in the terrain, half filled by underground water, and a lot of dispersed blocks of soils of sizes over a meter. Some pieces of a greyish material were found, clearly distinct from the sedimentary rocks of the terrain (molasses or red beds).

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Last year's meteorite impact in Peru has puzzled scientists. Fragments found at the site reveal the impactor was a stony meteorite, but stony meteorites usually shatter when they hit the Earth's atmosphere, raining many small pieces over a wide area.
So how could the meteorite make it all the way to the ground and gouge out a 15-metre-wide crater, such as the one found in the Peruvian town of Carancas?
The answer, says a team of scientists, may be that the original meteorite did break up when it slammed into the atmosphere, but then a shock wave formed around the fragments as they fell to Earth. This shock wave acted as a barrier that kept the pieces together so they could blast out a crater on impact.

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Brown University professor Peter Schultzs study of the Peruvian meteorite has yielded some interesting conclusions that could upend the conventional wisdom about the size and type of meteorites that can strike Earth.

It made news around the world: On Sept. 15, 2007, an object hurtled through the sky and crashed into the Peruvian countryside. Scientists dispatched to the site near the village of Carancas found a gaping hole in the ground.
Peter Schultz, professor of geological sciences at Brown University and an expert in extraterrestrial impacts, went to Peru to learn more. For the first time, he will present findings from his travels at the 39th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in League City, Texas, in a talk scheduled for 2 p.m. on March 11, 2008. Brown graduate student Robert Scott Harris collaborated on the research, joined by Jose I****suka, a Peruvian astrophysicist, and Gonzalo Tancredi, an astronomer from Uruguay.

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Five months after a meteorite made an international splash in Peru, experts are suggesting explanations for some of the space rock's effects - for example, the sickening odour villagers smelled at the crash site, and the bubbles that were seen emanating from the water-filled crater left behind. But a study due to be presented next month also raises fundamental questions about the event. In fact, an international research team declares that the impact "should not have happened" at all.
Yet another study sets forth a mystery surrounding two other meteorites found in Antarctica a couple of years ago. The rocks don't match any other class of meteorite - so where did they come from?

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Peru's Geological, Mining and Metallurgical Institute (INGEMMET) announced that Japanese businessmen have planned to build a space museum in Carancas, Puno (795 miles southeast of Lima), the region where a meteorite landed in September 2007.
Construction is to begin in April and $90 thousand are to be invested in the state of the art museum that will be able to withstand Puno's extreme weather conditions, said Hernando Núñez del Prado, director of institute affairs for the INGEMMET.

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It was nearly noon, and the tropical sun was beating down on a rugged, remote expanse of Peruvian plains. Villagers from the settlements of Carancas and Desaguadero were going about their business when they suddenly saw a blazing light, as bright as the sun, streak across the sky from the Andes in the north-east towards the coastal peaks. Seconds later, there was a loud boom and the ground shook.

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Fear really can be contagious. And while the human fear/alarm pheromone may have something to do with it, we may also be hard-wired to react to certain smells - which may have implications for a new style of nonlethal weapon.
There was a dramatic demonstration of the effect in Carancas, Peru last year on September 15th, a story I reported for Flipside magazine. A fireball hurtled out of the sky and blasted out a crater thirteen meters across. According to witnesses, the crater filled with boiling liquid and noxious gas poured out.


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