Sao Paulo – An unidentified metal object that could have come from a space rocket caused a huge commotion when it fell to earth at a small town in northern Brazil, the press said Friday.
The spherical object, which weighs about 30 kilos (66 pounds) and has a diameter of 1 meter (3 1/4 feet), was found Wednesday in a rural area of the town of Anapurus.
"The noise I heard made me weak in the knees. I went to see what it was. I thought it was an airplane that had crashed, or an earthquake," resident José Valdir Mendes told the news Web site G1.
He said the object fell to Earth just 6 meters (20 feet) from his home and that the impact left a 1-meter (3 1/4-foot) hole.
Local residents came pouring out of their houses to see what had happened and alerted their neighbors in the nearby village of Mata Roman, who were equally shaken by the event.
"There was an enormous disturbance here. Some were afraid it might have something to do with that 2012 story," Mata Roma resident Max Mauro Garreto said, alluding to the supposed Mayan prediction that the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012.
"Others said it was an alien. But I think it's a piece of a satellite that fell from space," the schoolteacher said.
Meanwhile, astrophysicist Gustavo Rojas of the Sao Carlos Federal University said that only scientific analysis will determine exactly what it is, but said that a similar piece fell on Uganda in 2002 that came from the European satellite launch rocket Ariane 4.
"It's highly probable that it's the helium tank from the Ariane 4 rocket that was launched in 1997. Its return to the atmosphere was scheduled for the morning of (February) 22, according to the Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies", Rojas was cited as saying by the online news site UOL.