This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

04 April 2008

NEO News (04/04/08): Dave Morrison's Comments on Köfels Impact

Dave Morrison has a new NEO News out (04/04/08). Stories include the reporting of the March 23, 2008, New York Times reprintt of an Op-Ed from Arthur C. Clarke on NEOs and the impact Hazard, which he wrote in August 1994, shortly after the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter. More interestingly he has a comment on the recent annoucement of a potential asteroid impact in Köfels, Austria that has been documented in a new book (see my post from 31 March 2008). Here are Dave's thoughts from the newsletter...


Following are a press release from the University of Bristol and a news story from The Telegraph discussing a new claim that evidence has been found to connect a mysterious landslide in the Alps at Köfels, Austria, with the destruction of the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Based on an interpretation an Assyrian copy of an earlier Sumerian clay tablet, the hypothesis is suggested that the tablet is an eyewitness account of a brilliant fireball that passed over Mesopotamia on 29 June 3123, travelling north-west. The authors further suggest that this object ended in an airburst over the Alps, triggering the 5-km-wide landslide at Köfels, Austria. Finally, much of the explosion energy formed a fireball that headed back toward western Asia, where it might have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities mentioned in the Hebrew Bible that have not been identified by archeologists.

Obviously there are many poorly documented aspects of this hypothesis, perhaps related to its packaging for the press. I have not seen or read the book in which the ideas are presented. But questions begin with the interpretation by non-mid-east scholars of the clay tablet as showing a fireball, in which the size and shape as well as the trajectory of the incoming object was recorded. The Köfels landslide itself has not been dated, and most geologists do not think it is related to an impact. The idea of a fireball directed back to hit the ground again 3000 km away sounds pretty incredible, failing computer modeling to show this might have happened.

The bottom line for me is that this work has not been published in refereed scientific journals dealing with ancient mid-eastern history, or geology, or impact physics. Without such publication, it is difficult either to agree with or criticize this work.

David Morrison

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Any opinions expressed on the blog are solely those of the author. The site is not sponsored by, nor does it represent the opinions of, any organization, corporation, or other entity.