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Scientists examine last moments of ‘meteorite’

7 January 2004

MADRID – Scientists investigating the meteorite which fell to Earth across north Spain appealed Wednesday for anyone who took photographs or has video film to help them.  

Numerous witnesses from a wide range of places in Spain and Portgual said they had seen “balls of fire”  in the sky on Sunday night.

Spanish scientist Josep Maria Trigo, from  the Insitute of Geophysics at the University of California, is leading the investigating team.

He told EFE news agency:  “We need images from different places of the meteorite to measure the trajectory with as much precision as possible.”. 

Scientists are also keen to trace the speed with which the meteorite fell through the Earth’s atmosphere and broke up. Until now, nobody has been able to define this precisely.

“We do not know if it broke up or vanished into thin air  partially or totally,” said Trigo, who has not discounted the possibility of pieces  of a certain size  falling in many different parts of  Spain, even though he is not confidant that they can find large fragments.

Trigo emphasised the scientific importance of the phenomenon and the testimonies of those  witnesses in Leon and Palencia who saud they heard a loud explosion and a strong shock wave  just before the meteorite broke-up into many pieces. 

After the sightings on Sunday, police combed a number of areas on Monday – concentrating on an area near Leon and Palencia, in northern Spain – but have found nothing so far.

They received hundreds of calls at the weekend about loud explosions, tremors and colourful displays in the sky.

Experts say the noise and tremors may have been caused by the meteorite  breaking the sound barrier rather than crashing into the ground.

Police sources believe the meteoroid broke up over the northern parts of Leon and Palencia, where civil guard officers reported seeing an object plunging from the skies.

But they say the parts may have fallen over as many as seven regions, in an arc running from the north-west to the south-east of Spain.

Around 100 police and members of civil protection took part in searches on Monday in Leon, Palencia, Cuenca and Soria regions, according to El Periodico newspaper.

Spanish TV showed pictures of charred vegetation and six holes, about 30 centimetres in diameter, near Minglanilla in the eastern Cuenca Province.

But experts from the Superior Council for Scientific Investigations said later that these craters had no relation to a meteorite.

Jose Angel Docobo, director of the University of Santiago’s observatory, believes that the largest of the fragments fell near the town of Molina de Aragon, near Guadalajara, 54 kilometres north of Madrid.

Docobo, who witnessed the spectacle during a soccer match, says the fragments could be strewn over a radius of 100 kilometres.

He estimated that the meteoroid weighed between 50 and 100 tonnes.

His observatory carried out a study eight years ago on a similar incident when a meteoroid weighing an estimated 10 tonnes dropped debris over Spain.

A meteorite also fell to Earth in Spain near Reliegos in Leon province in autumn 1947.

Anyone who saw anything has been asked to contact the scientific team  at this website  www.spmm.uji.es.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news