Fox News is running an article about a pair of researchers out of the University of Bristol and their interpretation of a nearly 3,000 year-old cuneiform tablet. Astronautics lecturer Mark Hempsell and a fellow named Alan Bond whose area of expertise is less clear (though he does work at a high level in a company called Reactions Engines Ltd., so I assume he has some sort of physical sciences training) believe that the tablet, called the Planisphere, may be from the night diary of an astronomer from 3123 BC that records the approach of an oncoming asteroid. This is not the reading of, as far as I know, any of the others that have worked with the tablet, but now that interpretation will get its day, I suppose.
Most interestingly, they believe that the asteroid may be responsible from one of history's largest landslides - the gigantic slide, or series of slides, that took place at Köfels in the Austrian Alps. The idea that the Köfels event was caused by an asteroid was popular for a while some decades ago, though today the primarily interpretation is that it was caused by earthly geological forces (though not everyone is in agreement on this point). Most notably, there's no impact crater, though Hempsell claims that the trajectory indicated by the Planisphere would account for that by flinging the asteroid into the atmosphere at a very shallow angle, allowing it to be broken up along the way by striking other terrain features.
Fascinating if true.
The weird thing is that the Köfels slide is dated at approx. 8,700 years ago, not around 5,200 years ago as Hempsell posits. (The 3123 B.C. date comes from using a computer to compare the Planisphere with various projections of what the night sky looked like in the past. The best match was June 29, 3123 B.C.) I'm curious to see what actual geologists and astronomers make of this - the Köfels site is one of the best studied landslide events in the world, so I'm sure they'll be no paucity of opinion. I also note that Hempsell and Bond are publishing their research not as a refereed journal article, but as a popular book.
Anyway, I don't know how this will turn out, but we get to see some science at work here. A couple of fellows have a made a claim that is somewhat at odds with the current interpretation and, as other analyze and try to replicate their work, we'll see if it holds up to the test of scrutiny or if it falls by the wayside.
One thing that is absolutely wild to me, however, is that the Fox headline is "Research Shows Asteroid Destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah". (Note that the British coverage omits such hyperbole.) Hempsell does mention Sodom and Gomorrah, but he does so as an example of myths that may be attributable to ancient observations of asteroid impacts. He also mentions the Greek myth of Phaeton, son of the Sun God Helios, crashing the "sun chariot" into the earth. Hell, using that standard, the headline could just as easily have said "Research Shows Ancient Greek Sun God Caused Alps Landslide". To be fair, I've not read the book, so maybe Hempsell is all over Sodom and Gomorrah like salmonella on old chicken, but thus far I'm not quite compelled to lump him in with Velikovksy just yet. To all appearances, Fox News is ignoring the actual point of this work - a new attempt to explain the Köfels event - in favor of concocting an attention-generating healdine that means squat when it comes to the actual story.
It should be noted that Sodom and Gomorrah were almost certainly mythical cities and never actually existed. In attention to the abject lack of real archaeological evidence, "Sodom" even comes from a root word that means "scorched" - hardly the name that you'd give to a city before it was immolated.