Meteorites From the Tunguska Event—Fodder for 15 Minutes of Fame?

Mere mention of the Tunguska Event may trigger a distant memory from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series that aired on PBS in the 1980s. Through the intrepid story-telling of Carl Sagan, the general public came to understand that our Solar System was their dynamic “backyard” to be explored, and treasured.

Presently, a publication at the Physics e-print server has acquired a fair amount of publicity; it has announced the discovery of artifacts from the Tunguska Event. Strangely enough, the artifacts are pieces of meteorite (discovered in 1988) that have surfaced in publication  25 years later. Sadly, the scholarly paper is short on statistical analysis. As someone who is trained as a chemist—I had wished to see “hard data.” The author gives a fair amount of qualitative description of meteorite pieces and goes to the extent of performing computational analysis on the energetics of impact.

At a certain point, I read the paper with much dismay—and “learned” that the meteorite artifacts came from a shoal of a riverbed near the impact area. The lack of scientific rigor is very sad to me.

As mentioned in the paper, the author is awaiting chemical analysis of the fragments.

As I try to recall the rigors of scientific analysis and publication—the chemical analysis of the fragments “needed” to have been done simultaneously. The pubic (and the scientific community) deserve a better reason to believe the supposition despite the author’s tardy publication (I am reminded of the 1988 discovery date).

Sadly enough, it seems to be a case of “putting the cart before the horse.”

See further below for more information:

Fig. 1 Map showing Tunguska River area with the World in perspective. Original Credit: Dr. Tony Phillips, NASA News (2008)

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Fig. 2 via Wikipedia: Trees were knocked down and burned over hundreds of square km by the Tunguska meteoroid impact. This image is cropped from the original, taken in May 1929 during the Leonid Kulik expedition.

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Fig. 3 Tunguska event (of 1908) took place in a remote region of Siberia—along the Stony Tunguska River (or Podkamennaya Tunguska River).

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From the Wikipedia source: author, Kmusser using Digital Chart of the World.

The Podkamennaya Tunguska may be translated in the following manner: Stony Tunguska is a river in Siberian Russia. The name of the river comes from the fact that it flows under pebble fields without open water.



NASA News Tunguska Event (from 2008)

Tunguska Meteorites ? link to e-print server paper



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