Meteor Strikes Mexico?

February 11th, 2010
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NOTE: See the question mark on the end of the headline? That means this is not reported as verified fact but rather as a possible event that is being reported
Reports have come in from Mexico describing an apparent meteorite strike that left a thirty meter crater in an area of the country about 100 miles northeast of Mexico city. The impact is reported to have occurred yesterday evening at approximately 18:30 (6:30 PM). This would have been around 00:30 GMT, assuming that the reported timing is correct. Thus far there’s not a lot of information outside of the Mexican press, but based on a number of reports it does appear that there was some kind of event that did occur in the area of Pachuca, Hidalgo Mexico.

Reports include sightings of a flaming object streaking across the sky, but it should be noted that until independent verification and more data becomes available, it can’t be stated conclusively that it was indeed a meteorite. It is possible that this could have been a piece of “space junk,” an aircraft accident or possibly even something as mundane as a propane tank exploding. It would not be the first time that a terrestrial explosion as reported as a meteor strike.

Via Bad Astronomy:

There have been some reports of a possible meteorite in Mexico — here is one news report translated into English.

Reports are a bit sketchy right now, but apparently a bright flaming object was seen coming down about 100 miles northeast of Mexico City on Wednesday around 18:30 local time. There was a roar that was loud enough to shake buildings. Another news article is reporting a crater 30 meters in diameter was found.

At the moment this is all I know. It’s not clear if this was actually an impact event from a meteorite or some terrestrial event. In 2007 a small meteorite struck in Peru, causing a lot of confusion (with me at least!) over the source of the event; there was a lot of speculation before an actual meteorite impact was confirmed. Before that impact, it was not considered likely that a small meteorite could actually hit the ground fast enough to make a crater in the ten-meter size range (they slow down or break up high in the atmosphere), so the Peru event was a surprise. It’s still not completely understood how the meteoroid survived to hit the ground.

So it’s possible this Mexico event is a meteorite, but we don’t know yet. I’ll post more information as I find it.

Possible Seismic Confirmation???

On a related note, there was some very unusual activity shown on several seismographs around this time. The anomaly was picked up on seismometers in the Caribbean and Central America and was strongest in the area around Barbados, Antigua and Grenada. It also was first registered in this area. The anomaly was a very sudden movement which was not followed by the reverberations typically associated with ground movement. It is, however, consistent with some air bursts that have been recorded in the past.

The fluctuation is so dramatic that, on first glance, it looks more like an error, such as someone bumping the instrument or a momentary loss of power. However, the fact that it was recorded across the region proves that it was indeed a real event.

The timing of the anomaly is also very unusual. It arrived at stations in Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica, Grand Turk and Panama within a very short period of time. Given the speed of sound, an event at ground level should have had a greater variation in arrival time. Timing indicates the anomaly was roughly the same distance from Jamaica as it was from Antigua, slightly closer to Grenada. The relatively small difference in arival time could be explained if the event occurred at a high altitude, thus reducing the travel time distance to each station. The last station to register the event was on the Yucatan Peninsula and only registered a relatively small anomaly.

The following map shows a VERY approximate path that could explain the event, assuming it was an atmospheric impact. Please note that this is based on limited data and is only an approximation. The times of arrival are only precise to about 30 seconds, making this a very rough approximation, which should absolutely not be reported as verified fact. It’s only a plausible, hypothetical explanation, not a confirmed one!

More data will be posted as it becomes avaliable. At this time, it seems consistent with a meteor that impacted the atmosphere. This may have caused fragmentation or possible vaporization of an object, as in the Tunguska event, while still leaving a large fragment or fragments relatively in tact to strike the ground.

BUT: That’s does not mean that this is what happened. It’s a hypothesis. Plausible and quite possibly the way things happened, but thus far, unconfirmed.

UPDATE: New reports indicate that the object which crashed has been identified as a Russian satellite, not a meteor.

Further information indicates that the object was cataloged as “Cosmos 2421″

It also turns out that my above map with a hypothetical trajectory is not correct. The fact that there was a seismic event over the area to the southeast of the primary impact site may still be related, however. It seems that Cosmos 2421, which was launched in 2006, broke apart into at least 15 major pieces. These pieces, which had been orbiting in a lose cluster, began to enter the earth’s atmosphere, with some possibly traveling further than others before their final decay from orbit. The reentry profile of an object and the amount of orbital decay depends on factors such as mass, aerodynamics and trajectory (such as whether it is tumbling).

The satellite in question was a large ocean recon satellite which experienced a number of problems shortly after launch in 2006. It was, however, able to operated for 20 months in a reduced capacity. In 2008 the satellite began to break apart due to atmospheric stress from its decaying orbit.


This entry was posted on Thursday, February 11th, 2010 at 4:25 pm and is filed under Announcements, Events, Good Science, Misc, Space. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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7 Responses to “Meteor Strikes Mexico?”

  1. 1
    DV82XL Says:

    Cool!


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  2. 2
    Eric Cole Says:

    Something definitely fell from the sky. I live in Mexico City and one of my co-workers saw the meteor in the daytime sky while driving on the Pereferico. (a big road here in Mexico City). It was around 4 PM, Feb. 10th, he said it looked quite large, was moving relatively slow, glowing bright blue/white, leaving a smoking trail and tracking to the north – north/east. (from his perspective)

    Since the area is only about 2 hours from where I live, I’m heading up there early on Saturday to see what I can find.


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  3. 3
    Engineering Edgar Says:

    As is evident from the Columbia tragedy, when a big object reenters and breaks up all the pieces don’t land in the same place (Columbia, you might remember, was spread over California, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico) I wonder if there are any other impact sites?

    On another note: The world’s a big place and mostly water, so when a satellite comes down it usually doesn’t hit anything important. However, what will happen when and if one of these ends up hitting a building or person and possibly killing someone. In the event that a freak accident does happen, what would the concequences be? Wrongful death suit against Russia? (Or the United States or European Space Agency or whoever it might end up being?)


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  4. 4
    drbuzz0 Says:

    When Skylab reentered the Earth’s atmosphere, most of it ended up in the Indian ocean, but quite a bit of debris ended up in western Australia. Several small pieces did land on homes and buildings, but no damage was caused. The Shire of Esperance – a local government area (I believe it’s basically the equivalent to a county in the US) issued a fine against NASA for $400 – for littering.

    It’s a bit ironic, because NASA actually did them a huge favor – at least for those who were lucky enough to find a piece. Verified Skylab debris goes for a lot on auction. If it’s a piece that is actually identifiable as something on the station that can be recognized, it’s worth tens of thousands of dollars or more. There were not many found, so that debris is like littering bars of solid gold.


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  5. 5
    Oliver Says:

    It is reported that a streak of fire, described by eye witnesses as a missile, passed through the sky seen from the northern part of Grenada. This is reported to have happened 16 Feburary 2010 @ about 9:00 am. Reports state that it may have fallen into the sea. Loud rumblings were then heard, similar to thunder, after which the earth shook for about 40 seconds, similar to that of an earthquake. The reports also stated that the rumblings were heard up to about 10 miles to the south from the northern tip of the island.


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  6. 6
    Spice;Jamaica Says:

    I saw something streaking across the sky around 6:25-6:30a.m i figured whatever it was, was not going to land in JA more likely in the sea. It moved in a straight line across the sky and had a long tail


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  7. 7
    Spice; Jamaica Says:

            Spice;Jamaica said:

    I saw something streaking across the sky around 6:25-6:30p.m yesterday i figured whatever it was, was not going to land in JA more likely in the sea. It moved in a straight line across the sky and had a long tail


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