Reports are quickly spreading of a "meteorite impact" near Managua, Nicaragua. Circumstantial evidence supports the impact theory, but just as equally supports an explosives mishap from the nearby military base. Here's what we know, and what we need to know to tell the difference.

Is this an impact crater? Image credit: AP/Nicaraguan Army

A loud blast and ground shaking was observed late on Saturday, September 6th near Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. By Sunday evening, a large crater (12 meters wide, 5.5 meters deep) was discovered in a remote section of the international airport. The airport is also the local air force base.

The initial observations are ambiguous for distinguishing between a meteorite impact, or a far more mundane explosion related to military activities or training:


For now, it's plausible this was a meteorite impact, but it's slightly more plausible that the crater was caused by a more mundane explosion. Until we have more information — a geological investigation of the crater, finding toasted meteorite fragments or bomb shrapnel, infrasound records from the time of the event — we just don't know enough to definitively confirm if this was an impact event, or an explosion of misplaced ordinance.