Tunguska revisited: 111-year-old mystery impact inspires new, more optimistic asteroid predictions

phys.org | 6/30/1908 | Staff
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Every single day, many tons of tiny rocks—smaller than pebbles—hit the Earth's atmosphere and disintegrate. Between frequent shooting stars we wish on in the night sky and the massive extinction-level asteroids that we hope we never see, there is a middle ground of rocks sized to make it through the atmosphere and do serious damage to a limited area. Now, new research from NASA indicates that the impacts of these mid-size rocks may be less frequent than previously thought.

The research revealed that such relatively small but regionally devastating impacts happen on the order of millennia—not centuries, as previously thought. In addition, the new research has pushed forward our knowledge about the complex processes that determine how large rocks from space break up when entering Earth's atmosphere.

Research - Workshop - NASA - Ames - Research

This new research was inspired by a workshop held at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and sponsored by the NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office. Their results are published in series of papers in a special issue of the journal Icarus. The theme of the workshop: reexamining the astronomical cold case of the 1908 Tunguska impact event.

One hundred and eleven years ago, hundreds of reindeer and a few dozen humans witnessed an asteroid impact—although they didn't know it at the time. An explosion left a scene in Siberia, Russia, with little evidence of its origin except flattening 500,000 acres of uninhabited forest, scorching the land, creating "glowing clouds" and producing shock waves that were detected around the world. Newspapers reported this may have been a volcanic explosion or a mining accident or—a far-fetched idea—that this might have been an asteroid or comet hitting Earth.

Event - June - Stony - Tunguska - River

The event on June 30, 1908, near the Stony Tunguska River, continues to intrigue the public and puzzle researchers. The volcanic and mining explanations were quickly ruled out because of the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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