Meteorite leaves crater in Nicaraguan capital Managua

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A Nicaraguan soldier checks the site where a meteorite struck on 7 September, 2014 in Managua.Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The impact left a crater 12m (40ft) wide and 5.5m deep

A small meteorite landed near the international airport in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua, on Saturday night, government officials say.

Residents reported hearing a loud bang and feeling the impact, which left a crater 12m (40ft) wide and 5m deep.

Government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo said the meteorite seemed to have broken off an asteroid which was passing close to Earth.

She said international experts had been called in to investigate further.

No-one was hurt when it hit the wooded area near the international airport and an air force base.

'Like a bomb'

An adviser to Nicaragua's Institute of Earth Studies (Ineter), Wilfried Strauch, said he was "convinced it was a meteorite" which caused the impact.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
The meteorite landed in a wooded area near the international airport and an air force base
Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Nicaragua has asked experts for help to determine whether the meteorite came from the 2014RC asteroid

Experts studying the crater said it was not clear whether the meteorite had disintegrated upon impact or had been blasted into soil.

Locals said they heard a large blast just before midnight local time and reported a burning smell.

"We thought it was a bomb because we felt an expansive wave," Jorge Santamaria told Associated Press news agency.

Ineter scientist Jose Millan said that "we need to celebrate the fact that it fell in an area where, thank God, it didn't cause any danger to the population".

Managua, which has more than a million inhabitants is densely populated.

"All the evidence that we've confirmed at the site corresponds exactly with a meteorite and not with any other type of event," he said.

"We have the seismic register which coincides with the time of impact, and the typical characteristic that it produces a cone in the place of impact," he added.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Managua was hit by a meteorite in 1997, but this time there was no tell-tale streak of light, experts said

Astronomer Humberto Saballos said the meteorite could have broken off from the 2014RC asteroid which passed Earth at the same time.

2014RC, which is the size of a house, came closest to earth at 18:18 GMT on Sunday, when it passed over New Zealand at a distance of about 40,000km (25,000 miles).

The asteroid was first discovered on 31 August and, at its closest approach, was about one-tenth of the distance from the centre of Earth to the Moon, Nasa said in a statement.

It is expected to orbit near Earth again in the future.

In February 2013, a meteorite exploded over Chelyabinsk in Central Russia, injuring more than 1,000 people.

Nasa currently tracks more than 11,000 asteroids in orbits that pass relatively close to Earth.