The mystery of Tunguska, the meteorite that hit Siberia with the force of 300 atomic bombs without a trace - The Comprehensive Minds

The mystery of Tunguska, the meteorite that hit Siberia with the force of 300 atomic bombs without a trace

Tunguska meteorite 1

In 1908, a mysterious phenomenon known as the Tunguska event caused the sky to burn and more than 80 million trees to fall. 

The most consistent explanation assures that it was a meteorite; however, the absence of a crater in the impact zone has sparked all kinds of theories.

Each year, the Earth is bombarded by approximately 16 tons of meteorites that fall into the atmosphere. Most barely reach ten grams of mass and are so small that they go unnoticed. 

Some more can cause a glow in the night sky that disappears in a matter of seconds, but… what about meteorites with the potential to wipe out a region of the world?

Although the most recent impact of an asteroid capable of causing a worldwide cataclysm dates back 65 million years, on the morning of June 30, 1908, a devastating explosion known as the Tunguska event rocked Siberia with the force of 300 atomic bombs.

Around seven in the morning, a huge fireball shot through the sky over the central Siberian plateau, an inhospitable area where coniferous forests give way to tundra and human settlements are scarce.

Tunguska meteorite 2

In a matter of seconds, scorching heat set the sky ablaze and a deafening explosion engulfed more than 80 million trees in an area of ​​2,100 square kilometers of forest.

The event caused shock waves that, according to NASA, were recorded by barometers throughout Europe and hit people more than 40 miles away. 

For the next two nights, the night sky remained illuminated in Asia and some regions of Europe; However, due to the difficulty of accessing the area and the absence of nearby towns, no expedition approached the site in the next thirteen years.

It was not until 1921 that Leonid Kulik (scientist at the St. Petersburg Museum of Mineralogy and meteorite expert) made the first attempt to get closer to the impact site; however, the inhospitable nature of the region led to the failure of the expedition.

In 1927, Kulik led another expedition that finally accessed the thousands of burned kilometers and to his surprise, the event did not leave any impact crater, only an area of ​​4 kilometers in diameter where the trees were still standing, but without branches. No bark Around it, thousands of more miles of downed trees marked the epicenter, but incredibly, there was no evidence of a crater or meteorite debris in the area.


Tunguska meteorite 3

"The sky was split in two and a fire appeared on high"

Despite the confusion, Kulik's effort managed to break the hermeticism of the settlers, who provided the first testimonies of the Tunguska event.

The account of S. Semenov, an eyewitness who was 60 kilometers from the impact and was interviewed by Kulik, is perhaps the most famous and detailed of the explosion:

“At breakfast time I was sitting next to the post house in Vanavara (…) suddenly, I saw that directly to the north, on the Tunguska road from Onkoul, the sky split in two and a fire appeared high up and wide above the forest The split in the sky grew larger and the entire north side was covered in fire.

At that moment I got so hot that I couldn't bear it like my shirt was on fire; from the north side, where the fire was, came strong heat. I wanted to rip my shirt off and throw it down, but then the sky closed and a loud bang rang out and I was thrown a few feet away.

I lost consciousness for a moment, but then my wife ran out and took me home (…) When the sky opened up, the hot wind ran between the houses, like canyons, which left traces on the ground like roads, and some crops were damaged. Later we saw that many windows were broken and in the barn, a part of the iron lock broke ”.

The explanation to the Tunguska event

NASA considers the Tunguska event to be the only record of a large meteoroid entering Earth in modern times; However, for more than a century, explanations for the non-existence of a crater or meteorite material at the site of the alleged impact have inspired hundreds of scientific papers and theories of exactly what happened in Tunguska.

The version most accepted today assures that on the morning of June 30, 1908, a space rock approximately 37 meters wide penetrated the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of 53 thousand kilometers per hour, enough to reach a temperature of 24 thousand degrees. Celsius.

This explanation ensures that the fireball that illuminated the sky did not make contact with the earth's surface, but exploded eight kilometers high, causing the shock wave that explains the disaster and the millions of fallen trees in the Tunguska area.

Tunguska meteorite 4

And although other crazier theories without scientific support consider that the Tunguska event could have been the result of an antimatter explosion or the formation of a mini black hole, a new hypothesis formulated in 2020 points to stronger explanations:

According to a study published in the Royal Astronomical Society, the Tunguska event was indeed triggered by a meteorite; However, it was a rock formed by iron that reached 200 meters wide and brushed the Earth at a minimum distance of 10 kilometers before continuing its orbit, leaving a shock wave of such magnitude in its wake that it caused the sky would burn and the millions of trees would be felled.

Source: National Geographic

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