One day in 2007, villagers in the remote Peruvian town of Carancas saw a glowing fireball fall toward Earth — then people started falling mysteriously ill.
On September 15, 2007, a meteorite fell from the sky and punched a crater 20 feet deep and 98 feet wide in the tiny Peruvian village of Carancas. Locals described seeing an orange streak and hearing a bang, one so loud that they thought a plane had crashed. This was unusual enough — but then curious residents who’d visited the meteorite site started getting sick.
The unusual commotion drew residents to the site of the impact, which radiated heat and smelled like sulfur. Though groundwater quickly filled the gaping hole, its edges remained scorched. Scientists were later able to determine that the meteorite had come from roughly 110 million miles away, from an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and declared that it was one of the largest meteorites to land on Earth in recent memory.
Shortly after visiting the meteorite’s impact site, local farmers started to suffer from a number of strange symptoms.
In alarmingly quick succession, they reportedly suffered from nausea, dizziness, headaches, and vomiting. Several police officers who investigated the site of the crash also were struck with nausea. And, unsettlingly, livestock nearby allegedly started bleeding from their nostrils.
Local farmers raised the alarm, claiming that they’d seen chunks of silver and lead in the ground around the meteorite which they feared could contaminate the soil. Local officials, however, assured residents that the meteorite posed no danger. They claimed that meteorites could only hurt people if they fell on their homes.
So what exactly happened in Carancas? To date, no one knows for sure. Theories ranging from aliens to arsenic have spread, but no definitive answers have ever been found. That said, scientists have noted that the meteorite that fell in the tiny village was an usual one.
The meteorite, called a chondrite meteorite, was the size of a small dining table and may have weighed up to 12 tons. Previously, scientists didn’t think that such a meteorite would survive an impact with the Earth. Instead, they assumed it would break up into pieces.
“This meteor crashed into the Earth at three kilometers per second, exploded, and buried itself into the ground,” one researcher who visited the site noted. “Carancas simply should not have happened.”
Go inside the unsolved mystery of the Carancas meteorite sickness.