Happy Tunguska Day

Happy Tunguska Day to all!

That’s right, today is the 100th anniversary of the Tunguska Event. On June 30, 1908, something exploded over the boreal forests of central Siberia, flattening tens of millions of trees in an area of over 2000 square kilometers. The explosion is estimated to have been the size of 1000 Hiroshima bombs.

What caused this explosion? The most widely accepted hypothesis is that a meteor or comet vaporized in the atmosphere several kilometers above the surface of the Earth. No fragment of this object have ever been found, and other explanations that have been proposed include a natural fusion reaction (due to heating and compression of deuterium in a comet), a black hole going through the Earth, a massive release of natural gas from the Earth, and a UFO crash.

The answer to this mystery is important. An event like this over a populated area could kill millions. If it was caused by a meteor, then we can hopefully identify similar near Earth objects (NEOs) and decide what to do to prevent a disaster. If it were caused by a comet, we have fewer options. Most comets have very long orbital periods, and we would be unlikely to spot the object until it was almost too late. If it were caused by a massive leak of methane from the crust, then we can work at identifying other locations where such things might occur. If it were caused by an exploding antimatter drive on a UFO…

Question: How should we celebrate Tunguska Day? Fireworks? Umbrellas?

Images from the 1927 Soviet Academy of Science expedition to the Tunguska site (from Wikipedia):

Geology.com: The Tunguska Blast

Yahoo/AFP news story: 100 years on, mystery shrouds massive ‘cosmic impact’ in Russia

Grace and Peace

Major life changes

Here’s my explanation for the six-week hiatus in blog entries:

For more than a year, my wife and I have been talking and praying about leaving the mission field and moving back to the United States. We have been in Bucharest, Romania, since January 2003, where I have been serving as the grades 7-12 science teacher at Bucharest Christian Academy. At the end of March, we sent out a letter to our supporters letting them know that we had made the decision to return to the United States. We flew from Bucharest to Denver, Colorado on June 5th, and have spent the past two weeks getting moved in and gathering our stuff from Missouri and Iowa.

This was a difficult decision to make. My teaching ministry at BCA was going well, and we have many close friends in Bucharest. The decision was based mostly on what we would like the next twenty to thirty years of our lives to look like, and what we would have to do to make that possible. My wife is enrolled in the M.A. in Counseling program at Colorado Christian University in Denver, and I am looking for permanent employment. I hope to find a job as a geologist, cartographer, or geographic information system (GIS) professional. I still have a commitment to science education, but it will likely be in the area of curriculum development rather than as a classroom teacher.

We appreciate your prayers as we go through a number of adjustments: getting used to life in the USA, missing friends, looking for a church, looking for a job (!!!).

One thing I won’t have a hard time adjusting to: living near the mountains!

It is still a life of faith.

Grace and Peace

Midwest flooding

These NASA images show the rapid increase in flooding along the Mississippi River in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri in the past week. We drove through the area around Alexandria, Missouri earlier this week, as well as through the Des Moines area, and we saw extensive areas under water along the Mississippi, Des Moines, and Skunk Rivers. There is additional crop damage in areas above the flood plains, as standing water from heavy rains has killed the vegetation. From the imagery, you can see that more than ninety percent of the land is not flooded. Despite this, there will be a significant reduction in crop yield this year, and this is at a time with high food prices already, and talk of a global food crisis.

The imagery is from NASA’s Terra satellite, and uses both visible and infrared light. When imaging floods with only visible light, muddy water is virtually indistinguishable from bare earth. By combining infrared and visible light imagery, one can clearly see a strong contrast between water, bare ground, and vegetation.

The images are from NASA’s Earth Observatory Natural Hazards site.

Grace and Peace