The VERY Strange
Galician Meteor Mystery
By Henry Gee
Nature News Service

Time: 18 January, 1994, just before dawn. Place: the city of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, north-west Spain. The event: 34 people report a very bright, luminous object, moving across the sky, from the north-northeast towards west-southwest. The object, which some witnesses said was as large as the full Moon, moved extremely slowly some witnesses watched it for a full minute.
Particularly telling are the testimonies of a driver and passenger in a car travelling from Santiago de Compostela northwards, towards La Coruña. Just after 8 a.m., the passenger (sitting in the right-hand seat, next to the driver) saw the light appear from her right, cross the highway in front of the car, and disappear over the horizon to the left. The event was so leisurely that they had long enough for them to stop their cars, get out, and watch the event.
An object as bright as reported could not have been more than about 5,000 metres above the ground otherwise it would have been witnessed by witnesses over a wider area. Yet it was only seen around Santiago. A meteor flying this low should have been much brighter than the Sun, visible for hundreds of kilometres: and no meteor ever flies so slowly that a witness would have time to stop the car, get out, and continue to watch its descent.
The search for an impact site was on, but proved fruitless, until 22 April, three months later, when a Ms. E. Dosil called the Observatory at the University of Santiago de Compostela to report a strange gouge in a hillside close to a village called Cando. Something had blasted up to 200 cubic metres of soil out of the ground, uprooting large trees and throwing them up to 100 metres down the hill. Curiously, a footpath immediately below the crater remained free of débris and there was no sign of any artifact or meteorites.
Yet calculations based on eye-witness accounts of the trajectory of the bright object placed the impact site within a kilometre of Cando. Was the Cando crater the impact site? And, if so, of what? If it were a meteor, it should have been accompanied by sonic booms and blast waves that would have punched out windows over a wide area. It did no such thing residents of Cando reported hearing a thunderous noise, but this was no surprise, as it was raining heavily all that week. Could the crater have been a coincidental landslide, a common feature of wet, muddy Galician winters? No, because the footpath immediately next to the crater was clear, and what landslide throws mature trees 100 metres through the air?
This sounds like a plot for the X Files, but is in fact a real story, reported by Zdenek Ceplecha of the Ondrejov Observatory in the Czech Republic (a coodinator of a Europe-wide meteor monitoring iniative) and his colleagues, in Meteoritics and Planetary Science.
The researchers suggest, as the least implausible explanation, that the crater was caused by a blast of subterranean gases which, removing the topsoil in a sudden explosion, vented into the air. The convective action of such a rising plume would create an electric charge separation sufficient to ignite the gases, accounting for the observed fireball-like observations.
But conspiracy theorists will have much sport with the loose ends.
First, the researchers cannot rule out an earthquake, which in normal circumstances would have been picked up by a sensor at Santiago de Compostela and relayed by telephone to the University Geophysical Observatory but on 17 and 18 January, the telephone line was not working.
Second: it could be that a military missile was the cause of the impact, but the researchers report that "this was excluded by appropriate authorities". Well, the first thing that springs to the mind of any X Files fan is 'plausible deniability'.
And nothing was found to indicate the presence of any artifact: but it took three months for the researchers to find the site; covert clearance could have removed all traces of everything: and this could account for the suspiciously clean surface of the footpath that admits access to the site
And then there's alien visitations

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