The unknown meteorite that crossed Chile and could have caused a great catastrophe

“We were a small fraction away from a direct Chelyabinsk-type impact in the region,” said one expert, sparking debate over whether Chile had a risk protocol for this type of phenomenon.

At 3:45 a.m. on August 20 this year, a meteor passed over Punta Arenas. The phenomenon was only evident thanks to a social media user’s security camera, and Its route was so close to the city that “we were a small fraction away from a direct Chelyabinsk-type impact on the region.”

Nearly three weeks later, on September 9 at 12:36 a.m., another meteor lit up the skies of Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas green. On this occasion, The tenants even claimed that the earth was “trembling”.

But Chilean history shows that these are not isolated events. : from the myths and legends of indigenous peoples to the disasters of thousands of years ago without explanation, the country’s latent risk is revealed when exposed to these meteoroids flying very close to the surface and, in some cases, impactful.

This Chili Ready for a meteorite fall? This is the reflection of Luis Donoso, seismologist and academic in applied geophysics at the Universidad del Desarrollo.

Lack of sense of risk in Chile due to meteors and meteorites

In Chile, there are risk protocols for earthquakes and tsunamis, among other natural disasters, but none for the fall of a meteorite. (in fact, in no Latin American country). Furthermore, Information about meteors flying over the country’s skies does not arrive in real time, compared to developed systems that record every earthquake that occurs.

“We are not part of a reporting system. The only thing we have are sightings that manage to reach social media, of people who say “I saw something strange” or “I saw something fall” and that’s it. It doesn’t go beyond that.” explains Donoso to The third.

The consequence is that, without data, it is not possible to visualize the evolution of the passage of meteors in the Chilean sky over time.

“Where does this get interesting?” When we go back in time and see meteorite impacts that alter civilizations or leave a deep mark on indigenous peoples” assures the expert, illustrating with a legend of the southernmost Chilean people in the world: the Yámanas.

Family of the Yámana people.

“A new sun suddenly appeared in the east, set the entire region on fire and boiled the water in the oceans. “It escaped across the sky and became a bright star that is no longer visible.”

For Donoso, The story suggests that “something very large hit the area” and, due to its obvious features, it could be a meteorite.

Actually, About 2 million years ago, the Eltanin tsunami occurred after the impact of a kilometer-long meteorite in the South Pacific Ocean. This, in mainland Chile, generated waves of 50 or 60 meters towards the southern part of Chile and, in the rest of the country, they reached 35 and 40 meters.

Illustrative recreation of how the meteorite fell into the Pacific Ocean and the impact it generated on the waves. Photo: Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Santa Cruz,

It is then that the expert asks: If a meteorite fell today, do we have the capacity to set up a warning system? Or how many of the great tsunamis of the past could have been caused by a meteorite and not by an earthquake?

“If we combine the evidence from Mesoamerican cultures with Eltanin, “We already have enough reasons to wonder what policy exists, not to mitigate this type of phenomenon, but at least to know what is happening and design something.” said the academic LT.

It’s unlikely that a one-kilometre body would fall – which would amount to a planetary catastrophe – but what would happen if something ten meters fell? What to do? How would this affect communities? “This can happen anywhere, with a probability of once every ten generations. But it’s going to fall.” Donoso assures.

In the meantime, These are the same people who, thanks to the technology available in today’s cell phones, are reporting more phenomena of which, institutionally, there is little or no trace.

NASA and its meteor recording system

The United States is the country that has a meteor shower protocol in its national security planning. In fact, his tool, called Fireballs reported by US government sensors It also collects information about phenomena occurring throughout the planet.

The unknown meteorite that crossed Chile and could have caused a great catastrophe

“If tomorrow they find out that a body is about to collide with Earth, they probably won’t announce it, because that would generate chaos and panic in the area where it is expected to fall. If this area is inhabited, then it is mitigated, but there is nothing that can be done. The important thing is that they can at least say that it happened and have data on it. declares the seismologist.

But it is also a question of means: while the American government has a greater possibility than those of our continent of implementing this type of toolsin Chile at least, it is documented in “small parts” and by reading the archives of the history of Latin American cultures.

But undoubtedly, the lack of information leaves “questions that remain strangely open.”

Source: Latercera

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