Monday, August 13, 2007

Riddle, Wrapped In Mystery, Inside an Enigma: Giant Meteor Stolen

Here’s the surprising headline from News.com.au: “Thieves make off with three-tonne meteorite.” First of all, how do you make off with a meteorite? Second of all, how do three tones of meteor survive an impact?

As it turns out, this particular cosmorock (I just made up that word) is supposedly a fragment from the so-called “Tunguska Event,” an unexplained explosion that wiped out 2,000 square kilometers of Siberian forest in 1908.

The leading explanation for whatever happened in Tunguska,
according to my dear friend Wikipedia, is the “airburst of a meteoroid.” I suppose a three-ton-chunk (doesn’t that sound like the name of a band?) could survive the airburst, but I find that hard to believe. Besides, according to the Wikipedia, an impact crater of any kind is strangely absent from the scene of the Tunguska Event.

Other theories behind the Event include a black hole passing through the earth (seriously, scientists in 1973 suggested this), a UFO crashing on its way to retrieve fresh water from nearby Lake Baikal and a comet, rather than an asteroid, bursting in midair. If it were a comet, this would explain why there’s no crater.

Also, if a comet caused the Tunguska Event, that would mean thieves in Russia made off with nothing but a plain old three-ton rock.

In my research for this post at Wikipedia, I learned scientist estimate the size of the Tunguska explosion at somewhere between 10 and 20 megatons, which is about the force of the largest U.S. nuke ever detonated (it was set off at Bikini Atol). This supernuke (that word is also made up) was named
Castle Bravo and caused a fireball 2.84 kilometers across. But that’s nothing compared to the Russian’s “Tsar Bomba,” a nuke that packed a 50 megaton punch, created a fireball 4.6 kilometers across and sent a shockwave registering 5.25 on the Richter around the earth at least three times. Heat from that blast could have caused third degree burns 100 kilometers away.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.