Although the Government of Ecuador initially confirmed that a meteorite hit the Guayas parish in El Empalme early Wednesday, April 22, 2020, causing panic among residents and power outages, experts from the Ecuadorian Space Agency ruled it out on April 23, saying that the geometry and texture of the object are inconsistent with the effects of atmospheric entry.
According to local media reports, residents of Guayas said the sky lit up over the area around 00:45 LT on April 22, prompting them to check what happened. This is apparently visible at the end of the video below:
After receiving reports about a possible meteorite impact, authorities arrived at the scene and found approximately 60 cm (23 inches) wide and 30 cm (12 inches) deep crater.
Unfortunately, locals moved the object before the police arrived, messing up the investigation. The object was later measured and found to be 20 x 17 cm (7.8 x 6.7 inches).
The radiation around the object measured 0.09 μSv/h, which is normal and does not represent any risk to life, said chemical engineer Hólger Naranjo of the Undersecretary of Control and Nuclear Applications of the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources.
Momento en el que recogen dos piedras pequeñas que habían cerca de la vía en el recinto Los Naranjos lugar donde cayó el meteorito la noche de ayer a las 8:00 PM pic.twitter.com/Hu5idjsoVc— Angel Aviles (@angeliitoaviles) April 24, 2020
#Guayas #ElEmpalme— LANACIONTV (@lanacioncarchi) April 23, 2020
El Empalme, en la madrugada del 23 de abril, moradores del recinto Los Naranjos, manifestaron que habían escuchado un estruendo, por lo que al vizualizar se logró identificar fragmentos de rocas. pic.twitter.com/e7Q4eYDmPm
Más imágenes brindadas por @angeliitoaviles donde se observa el accionar de la @PoliciaEcuador y las @FFAAECUADOR en el sitio donde cayó el meteorito la noche del miércoles.— C.U.P.S. (#QuédateEnCasa ) (@Cupsfire_gye) April 24, 2020
Recinto Los Naranjos, parroquia Guayas, cantón El Empalme.#Ecuador pic.twitter.com/gYaKTTYCXS
After examining images posted by residents and local media, experts from the Ecuadorian Space Agency ruled out meteorite impact, saying that the geometry and texture of the object are inconsistent with the effects of atmospheric entry. They suggested the object is most likely a fulgurite.
Fulgurites are natural tubes, clumps, or masses of sintered, vitrified, and/or fused soil, sand, rock, organic debris, and other sediments that sometimes form when lightning discharges into the ground. They are classified as a variety of the mineraloid lechatelierite.
When lightning strikes a grounding substrate, upwards of 100 million volts (100 MV) are rapidly discharged into the ground. This charge propagates into and rapidly vaporizes and melts silica-rich quartzose sand, mixed soil, clay, or other sediments. This results in the formation of hollow, branching assemblages of glassy tubes, crusts, and vesicular masses. Fulgurites are homologous to Lichtenberg figures, which are the branching patterns produced on surfaces of insulators during dielectric breakdown by high-voltage discharges, such as lightning.
Featured image credit: La Nacion TV