Tunguska study: Small asteroids pack a wallop

A computer simulation shows fast-moving fireball amplifies the damage done by a smaller asteroid impact, Sandia National Laboratories researchers conclude.

Sandia National Laboratories researchers have concluded that the asteroid that spectacularly blasted trees over Tunguska, Siberia, on June 30, 1908, was much smaller than earlier estimates suggested.

A supercomputer simulation shows the asteroid's mass turned into an expanding jet of high-temperature gas traveling at supersonic speeds, the Albuquerque, N.M.-based lab said in a December statement.

"That such a small object can do this kind of destruction suggests that smaller asteroids are something to consider," principal investigator Mark Boslough said. His advice: "We should be making more efforts at detecting the smaller ones than we have till now."

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About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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