The atmospheric fragmentation of the 1908 Tunguska Cosmic Body: reconsidering the possibility of a ground impactOPEN ACCESS 

L. Foschini, L. Gasperini, C. Stanghellini, G. Longo, R. Serra, E. Bonatti, A. Polonia, G. Stanghellini


revised version: 11 February 2019

“The 1908 June 30 Tunguska Event (TE) is one of the best studied cases of cosmic body impacting the Earth with global effects. However, still today, significant doubts are casted on the different proposed event reconstructions, because of shortage of reliable information and uncertainties of available data. In the present work, we would like to revisit the atmospheric fragmentation of the Tunguska Cosmic Body (TCB) by taking into account the possibility that a metre-sized fragment could cause the formation of the Lake Cheko, located at about 9~km North-West from the epicentre. We performed order-of-magnitude calculations by using the classical single-body theory for the atmospheric dynamics of comets/asteroids, with the addition of the fragmentation conditions by Foschini (2001). We calibrated the numerical model by using the data of the Chelyabinsk Event (CE) of 2013 February 15. Our work favours the hypothesis that the TCB could have been a rubble-pile asteroid composed by boulders with very different materials with different mechanical strengths, density, and porosity. Before the impact, a close encounter with the Earth stripped at least one boulder, which fell aside the main body and excavated the Lake Cheko. We exclude the hypothesis of a single compact asteroid ejecting a metre-sized fragment during, or shortly before, the airburst, because there is no suitable combination of boulder mass and lateral velocity. “