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S&T NEWSWIRE

Late-Breaking Astronomical News


night of November 22, 1996. Residents
near the border of Honduras and
Guatemala say a red-and-yellow bolide
traveled east to west across the sky. It
appeared to be a single object, at least
1 wide, whose passage was accompanied by a loud, explosive sound. Marco
Antonio Gonzlez, an amateur astronomer in Guatemala, says the bolide appeared within 30 seconds of 10:10 p.m.
local time.
The next day a large landslide covering several acres was found on a steep
slope of the jungle-covered mountain
Cerro Negro, 14 kilometers from San
Luis. Whether the landslide was caused
by water saturation, a meteorites impact, or both is not yet clear. Mara
Cristina Pineda de Caras, who directs
the observatory of the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH)
in Tegucigalpa, visited the remote site
twice in December. Her teams collected
eyewitness reports but found no meteorites. Nor was any trace of the fireball
or an airburst evident in preliminary
searches of satellite imagery near the
time of the event.
However, meteorite dealer Marvin
Killgore also ventured to San Luis in
late December, and he believes something slammed into the mountainside.
There is some hint of a crater 50 meters
across, he reports, though the landslide
has covered most of the putative impact
site. Theres no real ejecta or evidence
for an explosion, Killgore says, though
he found cracks in the ground more
than 1 km away. If the impacting object
were a single iron meteorite, Killgore
speculates, it could have a mass of 200
to 300 tons.
What exactly lies beneath the landslide may soon be resolved. Teams of impact specialists from the United States
and Canada were preparing to visit the
site in late January.

The Cartwheel Galaxys unusual features have prompted astronomers using the Hubble
Space Telescope to probe deep into its heart. A close-up of the nucleus (inset) reveals
immense cometlike clouds of gas (blue knots) speeding through the galaxys innards.
(The clouds are not comets; they are many orders of magnitude larger and less dense.)
The inset was color coded to maximize contrast. Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2
images courtesy C. Struck, P. Appleton, and NASA.

The Cartwheels
Cometlike Clouds
(AMES, IA) A new look at images of
the Cartwheel Galaxy in Sculptor has
revealed comet-shaped knots of gas embedded in a band of dust circling the
galaxys nucleus. Astronomers using the
Hubble Space Telescopes Wide Field
and Planetary Camera 2 had already
noted the Cartwheels remarkable features outer and inner rings and connecting spokes and concluded that
they were seeing the aftermath of a
head-on collision with a smaller intruder galaxy (S&T: March 1995, page 10).
While the collision theory explained the
galaxys basic appearance, other details
remained a mystery.
A closer look at the HST images may
have brought astronomers a step nearer
to unlocking some of the Cartwheels
secrets. In the November 1996 Astronomical Journal, Curtis Struck (Iowa
State University) and his colleagues
write that the cometlike features suggest
massive dense clouds traveling supersonically through the surrounding gas.
These clouds, they contend, are plowing
through a ring of gas caused by the earlier collision between galaxies.
Why this is happening is less clear. A
possible explanation is that during the
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Sky & Telescope March 1997

collision, clumps of gas were pulled inward, then released to oscillate around
their original positions. We may be seeing molecular condensations carving
wakes in a ring of gas moving outward.
Alternatively, the clouds may represent
a later stage in which ejected material
began falling back into the galaxys disk.
In this scenario, the comet heads were
first splashed out from the galaxys plane;
like balls tossed into the air, they then
slowed and fell back.

A Hit in Honduras?
(SAN LUIS, HONDURAS) Reports
continue to trickle in about a brilliant
fireball that lit up the sky over remote
sections of Central America on the
A bright fireball seen in
a remote corner of
Honduras (red star)
may have created an
impact crater tens of
meters across on the
evening of November
22, 1996.

90

85

BELIZE

Caribbean
Sea

MEXICO

G UAT E M A L A
Guatemala
Villa Nueva

San
Salvador
Pacific
Ocean

San Pedro Sula

Santa
Barbara H O N D U R A S
Santa Rosa
de Copn
Tegucigalpa

EL SALVADOR

1997 Sky Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

N I C A R AG UA
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