Iapetus Saves Albuquerque
By Douglas E. Gogerty
"Holy -- er -- hole!" exclaimed Dr. Plate.
Dr. Philadelphia M. Plate was a noted astronomy professor from New Mexico State University. He spent years studying the sky, but now something from the sky landed in his home state. He was quite excited to study the meteoroids. However, there wasn't any object in the small crater in the desert he was currently observing.
"I was told there were meteorites in the meteor craters," Dr. Plate said to a state patrol officer at the scene.
"There isn't a black rock in the middle there?" asked the officer.
"No. Nothing," replied Dr. Plate. "With the size of this crater, I wouldn't expect anything. However, I was told that there were some meteorites from these events, but I haven't seen any evidence of that."
"I will investigate," replied the officer.
As the patrol officer asked around, Dr. Plate examined the crater from the rim. He expected to see some glass formed from the intense heat, but it was absent. This would not be unusual for an icy object, but some eye-witnesses described a flaming object. Thus, he didn't know who to believe.
Further, some of the other tell-tale signs were missing. Apart from it not being hot, the impact did not create a very large crater. At least, not large enough for the size of object reported to have hit the ground. The crater should have been deeper and wider. It was strange.
"No one has gotten close to the crater," reported the officer interrupting Dr. Plate's train of thought.
"What? Oh!" replied the astronomy professor.
"The object should be in there."
"I'll look closer. Thanks!"
Despite his misgivings of destroying the evidence, Dr. Plate crawled carefully over the rim and into the crater. The sand was soft inside the crater. He tried not to disturb anything, but he found himself sliding slightly to the bottom.
Once at the bottom, he discovered a tunnel. It was deep, and he stuck his entire arm into it.
"Damn prairie dogs!" he whispered to himself.
He carefully crawled out of the crater; however, it was clear that he was there.
"What did you find out?" ask the highway patrol officer.
"There is some sort of tunnel at the bottom -- probably an animal burrow."
"So, what now?"
"Keep it cordoned it off, and I'll head over to the next one."
The next impact site was only 10 miles away. It was 20 miles if he stuck to roads. This part of New Mexico, a little southwest of the small town of Vaughn, saw all of the impacts. From the reported pattern, it appeared that large object broke apart in the upper atmosphere and scattered across this section of desert.
After the quick drive across the desert, Dr. Plate found himself at the next site. It was almost identical to the first one. Once again, there was no object in the crater. The same story was told at this site. No one had been near the crater, and the object was there last time anyone looked.
Instead of crawling into this crater, the astronomy professor decided to go to another site. It was only 2 miles away. He made sure that this site was secured, and off he drove.
The next site was a mess. It was clear that someone clumsily climbed into the crater. The sides had all collapsed, and there were clear foot marks leading out of the crater.
"It was like that when we got here," explained the local sheriff.
"No use guarding it then," explained Professor Plate.
"Very good. I'll check on my men up the road."
"Thanks Sheriff. I'll be right there in a few minutes."
Dr. Plate climbed into the crater. There was no tunnel at the bottom of this one. The size was roughly the same as the others. The sand was soft. It was clear that someone had taken the object away. He climbed out and headed down the road.
This crater was not disturbed, but still no meteorite at the bottom. Like the first one, the astronomy professor decided to investigate this crater. Once again, there was some sort of tunnel at the bottom.
"Perhaps something about them attracts prairie dogs," speculated the sheriff.
"You might be right," replied the professor as he climbed out of the crater. "Hand me those containers will you?"
"Sure," replied the sheriff handing him three plastic containers.
This time, he was going to take some samples of the sand. Perhaps he would find something to analyze in the sand. He dug at the top, middle, and bottom of the crater. Since no objects were found, perhaps some residue would be left.
"I wish I would have gotten here sooner," began the professor. "However, it takes time to drive from Albuquerque."
"We watched them closely for you, but we didn't bank on tunneling," replied the sheriff.
"Did you see any of the meteorites?"
"I saw a few -- yes."
"Would you mind describing them to me?"
"No -- let me think. It was up the road a piece -- closer to Vaughn."
"The first actual meteor I saw was about a foot and a half maybe two feet across."
"Wait! The first one you saw was half a meter in diameter?"
"Hold on! An object that large would have made a crater much larger than the 2 meter craters I've seen."
"Funny thing is," replied the sheriff "the next thing I know is that it shrunk to about 6 inches. Like a balloon deflating or something."
"Did you see it deflate?"
"Nah, I was talking to one of my deputies. When I looked back at the meteor, it was about 6 inches across. It was the darnedest thing."
"Interesting! Were the rest of the ones you saw about 10 centimeters in diameter?"
"Yup. The big one -- I saw hit. I was at the crater in less than 2 minutes after it landed."
"Landed -- you said landed?"
"I suppose I did. That is what I thought of it. It seemed more like a landing than a crash, but I was a ways away."
"How far is 'a ways'...?"
"A mile maybe. It was all flaming like, but not like you see in the movies."
"In the movies the flames are at the back, but these flames were towards the ground."
"Like re-entry rockets?" Dr. Plate said mostly to himself.
"I reckon so," replied the sheriff with a quizzical look upon his face. "Anyways, at about 6 feet or so -- the fire stopped and it hit the ground. I rushed over, and it was like I said."
"What color was it then?"
"All that I have seen were black as coal."
"Even the one you just described?"
"Yup -- even the big one."
"This is very strange. This is not like anything I have ever heard of. I suppose if they were icy, they would have just melted. However, that doesn't explain the flames. It almost sounds like some sort of space probe landing on earth."
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