Fire in the sky: Siberian airbursts and dangerous asteroids

SATURDAY, 10 February

Photo: Max Alexander/Starmus.

Photo: Max Alexander/Starmus.

Fire in the sky: Siberian airbursts and dangerous asteroids

On 15 February 2013, an asteroid exploded without warning near the Siberian city of Chelyabinsk. It was quickly reported by the Russian media as a UFO. Videos were shared on social media, and ordinary people became aware of it before NASA officials did. Its surprise arrival the same day as a predicted near miss caused consternation among experts and questions by the public. Its proximity to a city led to injuries and widespread blast damage, but also data records from which its size could be determined. By contrast, the 30 June 1908 Tunguska airburst – 10 times larger – was not immediately reported or studied. Models of these two Siberian events, separated by a century, form the basis of risk assessment of small but dangerous asteroids. This presentation will highlight visits to both of these airburst sites for the filming of documentaries in 2008 and 2013.

About Mark Boslough

Mark received his BS in Physics from Colorado State University in 1977 and his PhD in Applied Physics from Caltech 1983.  He was member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories from 1983 until his retirement in 2017. At Sandia, he worked on many aspects of planetary impact physics, including Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact models, formation of the Libyan Desert of Egypt, the 1908 Tunguska explosion, the 2008 TC3 airburst over Sudan, and impacts on Jupiter in 2010 and 2012. He served on the asteroid mitigation panel and coauthored the NRC report “Defending Planet Earth” in 2010.  He was the first US scientist to visit the site of the 2013 Chelyabinsk airburst, as a participant in a NOVA documentary. His simulation of that event appeared on the covers of Nature in November, 2013, and Physics Today in September, 2014. He provided information and simulations of airbursts for disaster scenarios for FEMA tabletop exercises in 2013, 2014, and 2016, and helped develop impact scenarios for Planetary Defense Conferences in Flagstaff, Arizona (2013), Frascati, Italy (2015) and Tokyo, Japan (2017). He has appeared in dozens of science documentaries and television shows.

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