Meteorite smashes into Nicaraguan capital

The meteorite appeared to have hurtled into a wooded area near the airport around midnight on Saturday, its thunderous impact felt across the capital. (Twitter: MP Garza)

An explosion that has left a 12 metre crater in Nicaragua's capital Managua appears to have been caused by a breakaway piece of an asteroid dubbed 2014 RC.

A mysterious explosion that rocked Nicaragua's crowded capital Managua, creating a large crater, appears to have been caused by a small meteorite.

Amazingly, in a sprawling city of 1.2 million people, the impact near the international airport did not cause any known injuries, but it left a crater measuring 12 metres across and was felt throughout the capital late on Saturday.

Nicaraguan authorities believe it was a piece of the small asteroid dubbed 2014 RC, which passed very close to Earth on Sunday and was estimated by astronomers to be about 20 metres across, or the size of a house.

"We are convinced that this was a meteorite. We have seen the crater from the impact," said Wilfredo Strauss of the Seismic Institute.

The meteorite appeared to have hurtled into a wooded area near the airport around midnight.

The impact was so great that it registered on the instruments Strauss's organisation uses to size up earthquakes.

"You can see two waves: first, a small seismic wave when the meteorite hit earth, and then another stronger one, which is the impact of the sound," he said.

Government officials and experts visited the impact site on Sunday.

Official William Martinez said it was not yet clear if the meteorite burned up completely or if it had been blasted into the soil.

"You can see mirror-like spots on the sides of the crater from where the meteorite power-scraped the walls," Martinez said.

People who live near the crater told local media they heard a blast they took for an explosion, and that liquid, sand and dust were blown through the air, which smelled like something had burned.

There were no reported injuries as the impact was in a wooded area, and flights at the airport were not affected.

NASA said last week that the asteroid 2014 RC at the time of closest approach would be approximately one-tenth the distance from the centre of Earth to the moon, or about 40,000km away.

It had been projected to be roughly over New Zealand at the time of its closest approach, which astronomers had calculated would be on Sunday at about 1818 GMT (0418 Monday AEST).

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