Peru meteorite challenges longheld theories

The meteorite that smashed into Peru’s southern highlands last September is challenging existing theories about how meteorites enter Earth’s atmosphere. A study presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in League City, Texas on Tuesday by Geology Professor Peter Schultz of Brown University said the impact shows that meteorites might not slow down by breaking up into flattened clusters of particles, National Geographic reported.

According to Schultz, the meteorite stayed intact as a giant fireball moving some 15,000 miles an hour, 40 or 50 times faster than it should have been going, when it fell close to the town of Carancas, about 800 miles south of Lima in Puno Department.

Schultz argues a shock wave created through the atmospheres movement trapped and smoothed the meteorites fragments into an aerodynamic shape. “Rather than flying apart,” Schultz told National Geographic, “[perhaps] it shaped into a needle and pierced the atmosphere.”

The meteorite hit southern Peru on Sept. 15. Authorities originally estimated it was about the size of a basketball and left a 13.5 meter wide crater. However Schultz said it could have been the size of a two-meter-long boulder and left a 15 meter wide crater.

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