Mystery of how Earth barely escaped an atomic bomb-scale mega meteor

Posted: May 31, 2020 by oldbrew in History, research, solar system dynamics
Tags: ,

Credit: Wikipedia

Time for another Tunguska meteor theory.
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When a meteor zooms toward Earth at 45,000 mph with the strength 10-15 megatons of TNT—185 times more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb—it could possibly take out the entire planet, says Syfy.

If something like that doesn’t scream total annihilation, it’s hard to say what does, except this time it just missed.

Scorched earth and flattened trees were all that was left of the mysterious object after it passed dangerously close to the Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908.

Theories have ranged from a black hole colliding with Earth to a clash of matter and antimatter to an alien spaceship crash-landing. An eyewitness even swore the sky was being ripped in two. But why no crater? No debris?

Now Vladimir Pariev and his team of Russian scientists believe that is because an iron meteor just barely missed Earth before its immense momentum and mass blasted it back into space.

“Probably, the most realistic version explaining the Tunguska phenomenon is the through passage of the iron asteroid body as the most resistible to fragmentation across the Earth’s atmosphere,” Pariev said in a study recently published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Meteors usually shatter into pieces as they hurtle through Earth’s atmosphere. Any space rock smaller than a football field across will shatter a few miles above the surface.

The atmosphere vaporizes the space rock into shards that its intense kinetic energy soon morphs into heat, so anything that remains is just cosmic dust floating around.

For over a century, this was believed to be the reason scientists kept scouring for evidence that eluded them.

Continued here.
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We have studied the conditions of through passage of asteroids with diameters 200, 100, and 50 m, consisting of three types of materials – iron, stone, and water ice, across the Earth’s atmosphere with a minimum trajectory altitude in the range 10–15 km. The conditions of this passage with a subsequent exit into outer space with the preservation of a substantial fraction of the initial mass have been found. The results obtained support our idea explaining one of the long-standing problems of astronomy – the Tunguska phenomenon, which has not received reasonable and comprehensive interpretations to date. We argue that the Tunguska event was caused by an iron asteroid body, which passed through the Earth’s atmosphere and continued to the near-solar orbit.

  1. Obsolete thinking, there is too much evidence it was a high altitude explosion, affecting just the area beneath, not a ridiculously improbable (thus, the “Mystery” in the title of the post here) close “flyby”, of a rock too big to burn up.

  2. Gamecock says:

    Thank you for putting it into the more recognizable unit of Hiroshima bombs.

    ‘it could possibly take out the entire planet’

    Uhhh . . . no.

    The U.S. detonated a 15 megaton device, code named Castle Bravo.

    The Soviets set off a 50 megaton device, Tsar Bomba. Off the scale in Hiroshima bombs.

    Gaia hardly noticed.

  3. oldbrew says:

    Planetary science: Tunguska at 100
    Published online 25 June 2008 | Nature 453, 1157-1159 (2008) | doi:10.1038/4531157a

    The most dramatic cosmic impact in recent history has gathered up almost as many weird explanations as it knocked down trees, writes Duncan Steel.
    – – –
    Russian scientists ‘debunk’ evidence meteorite caused world’s biggest-ever explosion … so what DID trigger Tunguska event blast, the size of 185 atomic bombs?
    23 Jan 2017

    It caused shockwaves as far away as Britain and dust from the explosion lit up the night sky in its wake in Europe and even America.
    – – –
    BBC: The effects of Tunguska were not limited to Siberia. In London, it was possible to read newspapers and play cricket outdoors at midnight. This is now thought to have been due to sunlight scattered by dust from the fireball’s plume.

  4. JB says:

    Yeah, finish the rest of the investigation–the real scientific part. Produce a scaled experiment to demonstrate the validity of the hypothesis, er, argument. And then do it successfully and fully documented numerous times. Otherwise, this is just another fart in a Blazing Saddles campfire of bean skit.

  5. gbaikie says:

    — We argue that the Tunguska event was caused by an iron asteroid body, which passed through the Earth’s atmosphere and continued to the near-solar orbit.–

    That would mean the space rock is still in orbit around the sun and the orbit has not changed much from orbit when it grazed Earth.
    Or it’s object which will cross Earth orbit again- also known as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs):
    ” Most of these objects are potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs), and a few are comets. As of January 2020 there are 2,044 known PHAs (about 9% of the total near-Earth population), of which 157 are estimated to be larger than one kilometer in diameter (see list of largest PHAs below)” -wiki

    On in the list of the 2044 of PHAs or it’s a PHA which has not been detected and plotted yet.

  6. Gamecock says:

    “which will cross Earth orbit again”

    Which will hurt no one, unless the earth happens to be there at the time.

    584,000,000 mile orbit. 8,000 mile diameter. 0.001% chance of it hitting earth, IF it crosses the orbit again, within the diameter of the earth after a hundred plus years traveling through space. Also note that the earth’s orbit is elliptical (Gaia playing dodge ball).

  7. gbaikie says:

    “Which will hurt no one, unless the earth happens to be there at the time.”

    Not worried about it or the 2044 others. Though not sure how many not detected and plotted which is bigger number particularly if only 150 meters in diameter or less.
    I just thinking of finding it. Or if take their plots back to 1908 AD, you could find it. Or determine it’s not one which has been detected- which suggests it probably a comet. And might have guess how far beyond Jupiter it is most likely to be. Or not on list because it’s small.

  8. oldbrew says:

    Sonic boom

    Richard Seebass and his colleague Albert George at Cornell University studied the problem extensively and eventually defined a “figure of merit” (FM) to characterize the sonic boom levels of different aircraft. FM is a function of the aircraft weight and the aircraft length. The lower this value, the less boom the aircraft generates, with figures of about 1 or lower being considered acceptable. Using this calculation, they found FMs of about 1.4 for Concorde and 1.9 for the Boeing 2707. This eventually doomed most SST projects
    – – –
    When the public heard it they said FM. Concorde would be a flea compared to the Tunguska ‘missile’.

    Also: The power, or volume, of the shock wave depends on the quantity of air that is being accelerated, and thus the size and shape of the aircraft. [or of the space debris]

  9. Peter Norman says:

    I hate to spoil the party here but I thought the Tangusta meteor hoax was long gone buried. Some years back I recall pictures from the Siberian Times showing huge lake filled craters caused, of course, by global warming. Apparently recent unprecedented warming had caused massive methane gas escapes, locals reported explosions and mysterious flashing lights at night. The clues to similarity with Tangusta event is the date 30 June 1908. Summers in previous years had been cold but there was a records warming event in 1908. Temperatures in Scotland, for example, were in mid 30s by July. Witnesses to the Tangusta explosion also mention other explosions and flashes in the days preceding and after. So take your pick: Mother nature fart, aliens landing, mini black hole hitting Siberia or meteor hoax. Google the crater photos in the Siberian Times.

  10. oldbrew says:

    It would take a lot of methane to equate to 185 atom bombs.

  11. Peter Norman says:

    @Oldbrew Just one explosion took down tress all around? I say it was several/many smaller ones. Where’s the proof there was only one big bang that caused trees to fall? Don’t underestimate the power of Mother nature!

  12. oldbrew says:

    PN: ‘Where’s the proof there was only one big bang that caused trees to fall?’
    – – –
    Enc. Britannica:
    Because the object exploded in the atmosphere high above Earth’s surface, it created a fireball and blast wave but no impact crater. The only likely remains of the object that have been found are a few small fragments, each less than a millimeter across. The radiant energy from such an explosion would be enough to ignite forests, but the subsequent blast wave would quickly overtake the fires and extinguish them. Thus, the Tunguska blast charred the forest but did not produce a sustained fire.

    The remote site of the explosion was first investigated from 1927 to 1930 in expeditions led by Soviet scientist Leonid Alekseyevich Kulik. Around the epicentre (the location on the ground directly below the explosion), Kulik found felled splintered trees lying radially for some 15–30 km (10–20 miles); everything had been devastated and scorched, and very little was growing two decades after the event. The epicentre was easy to pinpoint because the felled trees all pointed away from it; at that spot, investigators observed a marshy bog but no crater. [bold added]
    – – –
    An epicentre doesn’t fit with multiple blasts.

  13. Peter Norman says:

    @Oldbrew OK. Let’s accept one big bang. There is no evidence of meteor whole or bits in the vicinity but there is (still) methane all around. Do you completely rule out methane?

  14. Adam Gallon says:

    Rule out methane. Rule in a small comet. No meteorite fragments, as the largest particles would be dust, the rest ice.

  15. Gamecock says:

    “very little was growing two decades after the event”

    That’s weird. Normal plant succession should be expected.

  16. oldbrew says:

    More theorising…

    The nuclear and aerial dynamics of the Tunguska Event
    [1988 paper]
    – – –
    From Forbes:
    Bubbles of gas are observed in the lakes of Siberia, but the methane comes from rotting organic material buried in the frozen soil of the taiga, not from deep underground. Geologists mapping the area found no traces of shattered rocks or gas vents as proposed by the Verneshots hypothesis.

  17. I came across this and researched it a while back. Trees were scorched and flattened for miles. People heard deafening bangs and saw light. The most interesting theory I found (with evidence to back it up,historical, anecdotal, mathematical, trajectory-wise and date-wise iirc) was that it was a failed something of Tesla’s. Weird, but there was serious evidence for it. And if so, thank God it got covered up and forgotten generally. Too awful to contemplate. Kind of reality for which only prayer provides shelter.

  18. tallbloke says:

    Tesla was working in America on turbines during that period wasn’t he Anne?

    “On his 50th birthday, in 1906, Tesla demonstrated a 200 horsepower (150 kilowatts) 16,000 rpm bladeless turbine. During 1910–1911, at the Waterside Power Station in New York, several of his bladeless turbine engines were tested at 100–5,000 hp.”

  19. I don’t know about turbines but presume you’re correct. Now iirc, I read extensively somewhere, certainly wasn’t Wikipedia, but seemed at least as trustworthy, that he had been talking about projecting energy to somewhere that, if you continued the line of projection, flew over the northern polar area to arrive in Tunguska. That’s all I can recall.

  20. thanks Oldbrew. exactly.
    Now I find it more than curious that two titans of the last century were born close to each other in both space and time. Nikola Tesla and Rudolf Steiner. In a strange way they complement each other. Towards the end of his life, Steiner worked very closely with an extraordinary British practical visionary, Daniel Dunlop, who had something of Tesla’s charisma and ability and worked in a parallel way to develop energy but also related to Steiner’s spiritual perspectives.