asteroid impact

Eleven years ago today, on September 25, 2002, something from outer space impacted the earth in a remote region of Siberia near the Vitim River. Scientists are not sure exactly what it was–a large meteor, perhaps, or a part of a comet–but it certainly had an effect. The explosion was pretty big, anywhere from one half to 4 or 5 kilotons of TNT (the Hiroshima bomb was about 16 kilotons). More than 100 witnesses saw the thing come down, and they described it as looking like a large boulder.

If this event sounds a lot like the 1908 Tunguska explosion, it should. A lot of the same factors were at work here: some type of celestial object, large impact, huge explosion, and no loss of life due to it occurring in the wilds of Siberia. I’m not sure what it is about Siberia that attracts flying space debris, but we should probably be glad New York City doesn’t have the same quality.

One Russian researcher, Vadim Chernobov, led an expedition to find the Vitim impact crater in 2003. He claims to have found high levels of tritium, cobalt and cesium. He suggested it was a comet impact. There is no reason to doubt these findings, although it should be noted that Chernobov is evidently a “ufologist” and has been involved in some studies of pretty fringe phenomenon. According to the BBC, the Russian government could not afford to send an official government team to Vitim to investigate the impact.

Interesting stuff.

Note: the picture at the top of this article, which is a public domain illustration by NASA artist Donald Davis, depicts a much larger planetoid-sized impact with Earth than the kind of thing that hit Vitim. Just want to make that clear.