A three mile wide, billion ton asteroid hits Europe. This unimaginable catastrophe actually happened five thousand years ago, and astonishingly, there is an ancient eyewitness account, as well as the aftermath described in The Bible.

The “Planisphere” tablet was discovered in the ruined library of the Assyrian royal palace at Nineveh (Iraq). It’s a copy of the night diary of a Sumerian astronomer containing drawings of the night sky. But stars were not the only thing the ancient astronomer observed in that pre-sunrise of 29th June in the year 3,123 BC.

Alan Bond and Mark Hempsell analyzed the Planisphere a sector at a time, decoding the star signs and Sumerian commentary by matching constellations and planets against state-of-the-art programs which can reproduce the night sky from any location and at any time in the last few thousands of years.

Just before dawn the astronomer sees a bright object appearing from behind the clouds, moving faster than anything he has ever seen before. It’s big enough to show phases as it traverses the sky from East to West (at this stage it’s still exo-atmospheric). It vanishes into the earth’s shadow before dropping below the Sumerian horizon to the North-West.

Thirty seconds later the object enters the top of the atmosphere over Greece and an ionized shock-front becomes visible as a gigantic arrow-head in the pre-dawn darkness. As the object traverses the coast of Albania it is seen as a giant fireball, larger than the sun.

The asteroid dumps enormous amounts of energy into the atmosphere. As it reaches the Southern Alps, it’s releasing the equivalent of a one kiloton atomic explosion every meter, while the shockwave over-pressure on the ground amounts to several atmospheres.

In its final second of flight, the asteroid gouges a 2 kilometer cut out of the mountain overlooking Austrian Köfels, at the 6 degree gradient of its very shallow trajectory. This glancing blow was sufficient to vaporize the asteroid.

The final 4 kilometer-wide, 850 million ton fireball hit the mountain at Köfels at 14 km/sec. The energy released was 14,000 Megatons, producing not a crater, but the demolition of the mountain into the gigantic landslide we see today.

The aftermath was an ejecta plume which spread backwards, recapitulating the entry trajectory. This searingly hot mass would have launched into space, achieving a height of 900 km over the Mediterranean, and re-entering over northern Egypt and Syria. The astronomer saw the plume like a gigantic tree, low on the horizon, a few minutes after their strange star had vanished.

As it re-entered, the plume dumped 500 Megatons of energy into the atmosphere (equal to ten simultaneous detonations of the largest H-bomb ever tested). This would have incinerated anyone beneath it, particularly the inhabitants of those particularly badly-behaved cities located near the Dead Sea.

“The Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah – from the Lord out of the heavens” – Genesis 19:24.

* A Sumerian Observation of the Köfels’ Impact Event, Alan Bond and Mark Hempsell, 2008.