On February 15th, a 7,000 ton asteroid crashed into the Earth’s atmosphere, exploded, and fell to the ground in the Ural Mountains near Chelyabinsk, Russia. According to NASA, the meteor exploded with the power of 30 Hiroshima bombs and was the largest object to burst in the atmosphere since the Tunguska event of 1908—another Siberian impact that left few eyewitnesses or clues. One of those who searched for clues was Sandia physicist Mark Boslough (in Sandia’s Numerical Analysis and Applications Dept.). He traveled to Russia with a “NOVA” crew after the impact and started to develop several simulations that have been used to estimate the size of the meteor and blast.
“It was a high-pressure situation,” Boslough says. “I was making do with the equipment I had. Some of the simulations were used for the initial broadcast. Then I got to come back home and work on them some more. I believe those are the ones used in this episode.”
Boslough has led a variety of projects in other domains, including climate modeling and evolutionary computing. Renewed interest in his past research on cometary and asteroid impacts has brought him back into that field armed with the power of the current generation of supercomputers and codes.
NOVA’s “Asteroids: Doomsday or Payday?” will air at 8 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 20th) on KNME. NOVA’s initial treatment of the Chelyabinsk meteor was featured in a special program “Meteor Strike,” which aired March 27, 2013.
Read the rest of the article in the Albuquerque Journal.
Read today’s Sandia news release.
Read our earlier news post about the Chelyabinsk meteor and Mark’s participation in the investigation.
Read the March 25, 2013, Sandia news release about Mark’s participation in the investigation.