“They believed the blast was a visitation by the god Ogdy..”

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On the 30th June 1908 at around 7.17am, “a large space rock, about 120 feet across, entered the atmosphere of Siberia and then detonated in the sky” levelling approximately 80 million trees over 800 square miles. The remoteness of the site meant that few if any people died in the Tunguska event itself – but that wouldn’t have been the case if it had happened over a major city. The BBC article quotes Armagh Observatory’s Mark Bailey, “Everything within the M25 would have been wiped out”. At the time dust from the fireball resulted in bright night skies over Europe – “In London, it was possible to read newspapers and play cricket outdoors at midnight.” Near Earth Objects are now the subject of extensive study, while the University of Bologna website has a dedicated area on all things Tunguskan. Back to the NASA article Adds NASA have a podcast version [mp3 file] of the article here.

While the impact occurred in ’08, the first scientific expedition to the area would have to wait for 19 years. In 1921, Leonid Kulik, the chief curator for the meteorite collection of the St. Petersburg museum led an expedition to Tunguska. But the harsh conditions of the Siberian outback thwarted his team’s attempt to reach the area of the blast. In 1927, a new expedition, again lead by Kulik, reached its goal. “At first, the locals were reluctant to tell Kulik about the event,” said Yeomans. “They believed the blast was a visitation by the god Ogdy, who had cursed the area by smashing trees and killing animals.”

And the NASA article ends by noting the expected frequency of such events..

[Don] Yeomans and his colleagues at JPL’s Near-Earth Object Office are tasked with plotting the orbits of present-day comets and asteroids that cross Earth’s path, and could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

Yeomans estimates that, on average, a Tunguska-sized asteroid will enter Earth’s atmosphere once every 300 years. On this 100th anniversary of the Tunguska event, does that mean we have 200 years of largely meteor-free skies?

“Not necessarily,” said Yeomans. “The 300 years between Tunguska-sized events is an average based on our best science. I think about Tunguska all the time from a scientific point of view, but the thought of a another Tunguska does not keep me up at night.”

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  • joeCanuck

    Pretty scary. The Toronto Star published a map this weekend centred on Toronto and showed the area of the Tunguska event. Not only greater Toronto but an area of the radius of about 50 km would have been totally devastated.

  • Pete Baker

    Joe

    Pretty scary, indeed.

    But as Don Yeomans says above, “I think about Tunguska all the time from a scientific point of view, but the thought of a another Tunguska does not keep me up at night.”

  • Dewi

    “In 1973, Albert A. Jackson and Michael P. Ryan, physicists at the University of Texas, proposed that the Tunguska event was caused by a “small” (around 1020 g to 1022 g) black hole passing through the Earth.” (From Wiki)…now where was I reading about them….

  • Greenflag

    ‘Pretty scary.’

    It may not be much comfort JC but you have to take the long and more positive view :). Had it not been for a Tunguska like event (except many times more so ) that hit the Gulf of Mexico just off the Yucatan peninsula some 70 million years ago you would not at this moment be ‘enjoying’ the pleasure of being scared . Instead like myself you would not be here, (I know bad luck :) and instead our distant mammalian ancestor a kind of large rodent like fur covered creature would still be scurrying along trying to escape becoming breakfast. lunch or dinner for some dinosaur who’s feeling somewhat peckish following a cold snap of bad weather :)

    BTW not to increase your anxiety or anything but if any similar Tunguska like ‘comet’ ever heads for the Earth there’s nothing we can do about it . If you are in it’s direct path you’ll know about it when you begin to crinkle up like cellophane in a flame . At least it’ll be quick.
    No point in worrying what you can’t do anything about anyway eh .

    As a Canadian you do realise that come the next ICE AGE you guys will be first up for the BIG FREEZE mainly due to the large amount of water lakes etc carved out in Northern Canada courtesy of both the advance and retreat of the last ICE AGE . Not to worry you can head south for the Gulf of Mexico just in time for a repeat perfomance – no – I better stop here :)

    Always remember that he/she/ it who reputedly created the heavens and earth but without a shred of evidence so therefore cannot be charged as guilty in a court of law for raining death and destruction on his/her’s/it’s own creation, closeth not one door without slamming another in your gob :)

    I never quite understood what Einstein meant when he said he could not believe that ‘God’ played ‘dice’ with the universe . It was’nt dice at all at all . More a game of ten pin bowling with guess who as the only inhabitable lonely skittle orbiting Sol :)

  • joeCanuck

    Oh, I stopped worrying about my mortality 21 years ago when I had my 1st heart attack and briefly “died” until the ER doc jump started me.
    I never lie awake at night.

  • Greenflag

    jc,

    ‘I never lie awake at night.’

    I always tell the truth ,when I’m awake at night too:)