What Was It? Experts Investigate Massive Crater in Latvia

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Scientists were investigating Monday whether a large crater found in a meadow in northern Latvia had been created by meteorite. One expert said it was likely a hoax.

Experts in the Baltic country 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 and nine 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 three 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.