Latvian Meteor a Marketing Hoax

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A Latvian telecommunications firm has confessed to creating the meteor hoax.

According to LETA, the national news service of Latvia, local firm Tele2 owned up to inventing the entire meteor scam in an effort to put Latvia on the map.

"Our goal is to inspire the people of Latvia," said marketing director Janis Sprogis. "As we can see, with this Latvia made the news all over the world, everyone wants to know about Latvia, and this is not because of the crisis, the hard times and so, but because there is something creative and exciting happening here. It is a unique achievement and part of our communication," said Sprogis.

SLIDESHOW: The Latvian 'Meteor' Crater

Unique? Perhaps. Sprogis also said that "Tele2" would compensate all the losses that the state has sustained.

Skeptism grew through the day following the "impact." The Times Online reached out to Ancis Steinbergs, the film student who first reported the meteor. Steinbergs claimed to have been out filming for a university project with his girlfriend and a fellow undergraduate. He refused to answer his telephone tonight to answer questions about the experts’ assessments.

A number of scientists have now dismissed the "meteor" as a hoax, and not a particularly good one. Researchers from the University of Tartu in Latvia concluded that the hole was probably dug by people and not caused by a meteorite, according to Latvian news site Apollo.

The web site spoke with Girts Stinkulis from Latvia University's Geography and Earth Sciences Department. He noted spade marks on the sides of the crater, implying that it was dug by human hands. "There certainly were a number of people," Stinkulis told Apollo.

Meanwhile, Latvian News Agency LETA notes other deviations from confirmed meteor strikes that continues to point to a hoax. Andris Karpovics, a geology studen with the University of Latvia, postulated that the high temperatures observed at the site were most probably created burning a mixture of aluminum and iron, possible with an admixture of sulfur. He called it "a simple, man-made hole with a (chemical) substance poured in."

Other experts in the Baltic country also rushed to the site after reports that a metorite-like object had crashed late Sunday in the Mazsalaca region near the Estonian border.

Uldis Nulle, a scientist at the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Center, said his first impression after observing the site late Sunday was that the 27-foot wide, 9-foot deep crater had been caused by a meteorite. He said there was smoke coming out of the hole when he arrived.

However, Dainis Ozols, a nature conservationist who examined the hole in daylight on Monday, said it appeared to be a hoax. Ozols said he believes someone dug the hole and tried to make it look like a meteorite crater by burning some pyrotechnic compound at the bottom. He added he would analyze some samples taken from the site.

When asked about Ozols' theory, Nulle refused to comment, saying he needed more time to make tests at the site.

Inga Vetere of the Fire and Rescue Service said they received a call about the alleged meteorite on Sunday evening from an eyewitness. She said a military unit was dispatched to the site and found that radiation levels were normal. There were no injures.

Experts outside Latvia said it would be unusual for such a large meteorite to hit the Earth. The planet is constantly bombarded with objects from outer space, but most burn up in the atmosphere and never reach the surface.

In 2007, a meteorite crashed near Lake Titicaca in Peru, causing a crater about 40 feet wide and 15 feet deep.

Asta Pellinen-Wannberg, a meteorite expert at the Swedish Institute of Space Research, said she didn't know the details of the Latvian incident, but that a rock would have to be at least 3 feet in diameter to create a hole that size.

Henning Haack, a lecturer at Copenhagen University's Geological Museum said more information was needed to confirm that the crater was indeed caused by a meteorite.

"With all these kind of reports we get there always is a pretty large margin of error," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.