“It’s almost like putting together a 100-year-old murder mystery,” said Michael Kelley, the James A. Friend Family Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Cornell, who led the research team. “The evidence is pretty strong that the Earth was hit by a comet in 1908.” Prior to this, the event was attributed to everything from comets to meteors to black holes.
The noctilucent clouds formed the day following the event thousands of miles away. Researchers believe that large amounts of water vapour released into the atmosphere by the icy nucleus of the comet became entrenched in swirling eddies with incredible energy – a process known as two-dimensional turbulence. Noctilucent clouds are the highest type of clouds on Earth. They develop naturally in the mesosphere in the region of 55 miles over the Polar Regions during the summer months and when the temperature of the mesosphere is approximately minus 180 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 117 degrees Celsius).
Under similar circumstances, the space shuttle’s exhaust plume was also similar to the water vapour from the comet. A space shuttle releases 300 metric tons of water vapour into Earth’s thermosphere. The water particles then travel to the poles of the Earth, where they settle in the mesosphere forming noctilucent clouds. This event was viewed by Kelly and his colleagues on August 8th, 2007, after the space shuttle Endeavour (STS-118) launch.
A few days after the Tunguska Explosion, reports from Europe, especially Great Britain, described night skies that shone brightly. Noctilucent clouds could be the only reason for this phenomenon. The comet would have begun to break up at the thermosphere and release copious amounts of water vapour, just like the space shuttle.
Previously, there has been discussion on how this vapour travelled so far without scattering and diffusing, as expected according to conventional physics laws. ”There is a mean transport of this material for tens of thousands of kilometers in a very short time, and there is no model that predicts that,” Kelley said. “It’s totally new and unexpected physics.”
The development of this ‘new’ physics could be due to counter-rotating eddies with extreme energy. Water vapour can travel at speeds of 300 feet per second when caught in these eddies.
TFOT has previously written about the search for the Tunguska meteorite in a lake in the Tunguska region. You can also check out our article about the ice age comet theory, where we describe geological evidence that supports a comet theory, claiming a comet explosion over Earth was the cause of drastic changes to life on our planet. You are also welcome to read about a rumoured next extinction to coincide with mass life extinctions on Earth.
Additional information on the Tunguska study can be obtained at the Cornell website.
Icon image caption: A photograph taken during the 1927 Leonid Kulik expedition of the explosion in Tunguska on June 30, 1908. (Credit: University of California)