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Tunguska object came from Mars say Russian boffins

Curiosity rover's data about Red Planet's rocks compared to Tunguska fragments

Tunguska meteorite samples

Russian boffins have floated the idea that the Tunguska object, a meteorite that flattened swathes of Siberia in 1908, may have been a chunk of Mars.

The Tunguska event is considered history's largest recorded meteorite impact. Controversy surrounds whether the object was a meteorite or comet, and whether the object hit the ground or exploded in the atmosphere.

What's not disputed is that it made one hell of a big bang: 2000 square kilometres of forest was toppled. The object has also made a hefty dent in humanity's collective imagination, appearing in myriad books and even featuring in a two-episode X-Files story at the height of the show's popularity.

But the source of the object, and whether fragments of it exist, remain controversial topics. The four Russian researchers behind this new arXiv paper, ”Tunguska cosmic body of 1908: is it from planet Mars?”, are in no doubt that fragments of the object have been recovered.

Indeed, the paper mentions several and offers their presence at the bottom of “penetration funnels” as evidence for their likely high-velocity descent into earthly soils.

Having established the theory that the samples they consider came from the Tunguska object, the authors look at the composition of the rocks. That examination yields the supposition that Mars was the source of whatever it was that struck earth back in 1908 because some samples feature either quartz and/or pebbles.

Both quartz and pebbles have, of late, been observed on Mars, the paper says, citing studies of observations made by the Curiosity rover. But few other meteorites recovered around the world contain either, leading to a suggestion that the Red Planet is a possible source of the Tunguska object.

The authors suggest a useful next step is an audit of the 120-plus meteorites of supposed Martian origin to see if any have similar composition to the samples they've examined. If any also include the kinds of quartz and pebbles recently observed on Mars, the boffins think they'll be a little closer to a working hypothesis that the Tunguska object came from Mars.

If proven, the next question must surely be whether Martians threw it at us. And why. ®

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