Latvia Was Hit by Meteorite

    A meteorite-like object crashed into a meadow in northern Latvia, creating a crater 27 feet (9 meters) wide and 9 feet (3 meters) deep, a geologist who visited the site said Monday.

   Uldis Nulle, a scientist at the Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Center, said there was smoke coming out of the crater when he arrived at the crash site late Sunday in the Mazsalaca region near the Estonian border.

    He said the rim of the crater was slightly raised and there was a black-grayish scar at the bottom — both signs of a meteorite impact.

   Experts outside Latvia said it was 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.

  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.

  In Latvia, Nulle said a group of experts would examine the crater Monday and bring rock samples back to the capital, Riga, for testing.

   A meteorite is a natural object originating in outer space that survives an impact with the Earth's surface. Most meteorites derive from small astronomical objects called meteoroids, but they are also sometimes produced by impacts of asteroids. When it enters the atmosphere, impact pressure causes the body to heat up and emit light, thus forming a fireball, also known as a meteor or shooting star.

     The police have cordoned off the area to prevent souvenir hunters from taking away the soil.

  The Associated Press has contributed to the report.

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