The alarms went off on Saturday night when those who were in the areas near the Managua International Airport were shaken by what they defined as a “rumble” that was heard in different parts of the Nicaraguan capital.
After hours of speculation on the street and on social media about what might have caused what felt like an explosion, authorities confirmed Sunday that a meteorite had hit a crater 40 feet wide and 16 feet deep in Air Force land and does not cause property damage or injuries.
The person in charge of even confirming it was the Nicaraguan government spokeswoman and first lady, Rosario Murillo, who suggested that the meteorite could have detached from the asteroid 2014RC, which passed close to Earth on Sunday.
This Monday, scientists from the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (Inter) confirmed that theory.
However, both inside and outside of Nicaragua, critical voices have emerged that question the official theory, including the United States Space Agency (NASA).
Was it a meteorite?
“We are convinced that it was a meteorite, we saw the impact crater,” said the adviser to the Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies (Ineter), at a press conference called by the government.
“All the evidence that we confirmed in the place corresponds exactly to a meteorite and not to another type of event,” endorsed his Ineter colleague, the scientist José Millán, who said he had “the seismic record that coincided with the time of impact and the typical characteristics that produce a cone at the crash site”.
However, they said it was not clear whether the meteorite disintegrated after the crash or was buried in the ground and asked for help from international experts to investigate the provenance of the space rock.
At the moment, only government-authorized personnel have had access to the crater since the area where it is located is a wooded area near an air force base.
In this sense, the Nicaraguan Association of Amateur Astronomers (Anasa) asked the authorities to analyze the crater to determine if it really was a meteorite that used it and, in that case, to make its characteristics known.
“If we apply a bit of critical thinking to the official approach, one hopes to have the samples of the meteorite. If one makes an assertion, one has to have the samples, especially in a case that concerns the capital of a country,” the president told him. from Anasa, Julio Vannini, to BBC Mundo.
“Unfortunately there is no visual record of the object entering the atmosphere and it is one of the questions that remain in the air,” says the president of Anasa.
In the same sense, the director of NASA’s Meteoroid Environments office, Bill Cooke, spoke.
In a blog post titled, Did a meteorite cause the Nicaraguan crater?, the NASA spokesman questions the official version and says that, although he cannot completely rule out the meteorite theory, “the information available in this moment suggests that it was created for another reason.
“The lack of reports of sightings of fireballs in the populated area close to that area seems to suggest another cause,” he says.
“The skies were partly cloudy, an object capable of producing a crater this large would also have generated a very bright fireball (brighter than a full moon) that should have seen over a large area,” adds Cooke.
NASA also refers to the comparisons that arose with the meteorite that fell in 2007 Carancas, in the mediations of Lake Titicaca, in Peru. However, according to the blog, then some citizens “claimed to have seen fireballs despite the fact that it happened in broad daylight, around noon.”
More forceful in his criticism of the Nicaraguan government’s version, was the writer and presenter specializing in science and meteorite expert Geoff Notkin.
“For those who have asked: I do not believe that the ‘crater’ of Nicaragua is real. It does not seem recent, there are no witnesses and there should be no rocks in the background,” he wrote on his profile on the social network Twitter.
“Besides, a meteor that makes a crater this big would have been preceded by a giant fireball. Are there no witnesses near an airport?” Notkin wonders.
To put an end to this type of speculation, the president of Anasa advocates keeping a cool mind and asks that the investigators show the evidence as they obtain it.