In 1908, on June 30, an explosion in the atmosphere with a force similar to that of a thermonuclear weapon knocked down trees over an area of 2,150 km². The event took place in the vicinity of the Podkamennaya river in Tunguska (Russia). About 30 hypotheses were developed to explain it. What actually happened in the summer of 1908 in Tunguska, we will find out below.
Agree, the explosion of a meteorite in the atmosphere in those distant years in the Tunguska area was colossal. Mankind, or at least modern man, has rarely been able to observe such a detonation. No nuclear explosion could have had such devastating consequences as it did in June 1908.
With the exception of some volcanic eruptions and strong earthquakes, no phenomenon could surprise people as much as an explosion at an altitude of more than 400 km from the earth's surface.
A huge number of people are still interested in the incident, which is called the "Tunguska event". And that is why there are an impressive number of hypotheses trying to explain what happened in the summer of 1908.
On June 30, 1908, an explosion occurred, which was detected by numerous seismographs around the world. Its power was such that it was recorded by the barometer of the meteorological office in the United Kingdom, thousands of kilometers away. A much less subtle effect near the "zero point" included the destruction of all trees growing over an area of more than 2,000 square kilometers.
In cities located 400 kilometers from the epicenter of the explosion, the shock wave smashed windows in houses and knocked people walking down the streets. At 600 km from the epicenter, in the Kansk region, carts with horses overturned, houses shook, dishes fell from shelves and tables to the floor. Even the driver of the famous Trans-Siberian train had to stop the locomotive, as he was afraid that the train would go off the rails.
Neighborhood "zero point"
Some witnesses reported that for several weeks after the explosion, in some places in Russia and Europe, the nights were so bright that it was possible to read without lamps and candles. You can imagine how scared people were. Indeed, at that time there were still no cars or airliners. Then life was simple and predictable, and no one could even guess that television and radio would soon appear.
Reports show that even in the United States, several astronomical observatories, including Mount Wilson and the Smithsonian Institution, found a significant decrease in atmospheric transparency that lasted for a couple of months.
This effect, which is the result of a large amount of dust emitted into the atmosphere, will be associated with nuclear bombs in a few years and will be called "nuclear winter".
Experts estimate that the Tunguska event released energy equivalent to an atomic bomb of 10 to 15 megatons, where one megaton equals the explosion of one million tons of TNT. To help you understand what this means, remember the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. This shell weighed only 0.015 megatons, but instantly destroyed a large city.
Have you ever been to Siberia? Fortunately, it is a sparsely populated area. In many of its regions, you can drive hundreds of kilometers and you will not find any traces of human presence. If a meteorite exploded in a densely populated area, for example, in Europe or America, the death toll would be in the millions.
Most of the witnesses to the 1908 explosion were Tungus, who belong to a nomadic Mongolian tribe. This people survived in the cold steppes thanks to reindeer herding. These people reported seeing an object falling like the sun. They probably had a hard time sleeping that night.
What was the reaction of experts and authorities to such an amazing incident? The event we are considering deeply intrigued scientists. But, despite this, geologists and other experts were not sent to the site of the explosion until 1921. It must be remembered that in terms of distance, the world in 1908 was much larger than in the 21st century. The usual crossing of the Atlantic was an event for most people, and such an expedition had been planned for many years.
The tsarist government of Russia was probably more interested in presenting the Tunguska event as a "divine warning" against endless revolutions and strikes than in identifying the reasons for what happened.
However, 13 years later, in 1921, the USSR Academy of Sciences sent a scientist Leonid Kulik to Tunguska to study this fact. Kulik took a lot of photographs, but could not find a single crater.
He described an area with a diameter of more than 50 km, in which there was not a single upright tree. He also made several drawings of this region, which was shaped like a butterfly. As a result, Kulik came to the conclusion that there were two simultaneous explosions, slightly distant from each other. He returned to the area 17 years later, but was unable to find anything else.
In the 1950s and 1960s, expeditions with the best equipment were sent to the site of the explosion. As a result, the scientists managed to collect samples that were later identified as crystalline microliths and other objects of extraterrestrial nature.
In 1999, Italian scientists visited Tunguska. They found out that Lake Cheko, which has a diameter of 450 km and a depth of 50 m, did not exist until 1908. Materials of extraterrestrial origin were found in sediments at the bottom of this lake.
Obviously, the explosion of the meteorite gave rise to all kinds of hypotheses. Many publications devoted to UFOs, conspiracy theories and the supernatural are still speculating today about the possible accident of an alien ship, the explosion of a secret nuclear device (decades before its appearance). They officially invent time machines that explode when traveling in space, antimatter, natural atomic bombs, and all sorts of nonsense imaginable.
Nevertheless, the scientific community, based on collected evidence, eyewitness testimony and computer models, agrees that the Tunguska event was caused by a small comet (or probably a piece of a comet). Scientists claim that it consisted only of ice and dust and exploded in the air, evaporating due to heating due to friction in the atmosphere.
Various models have been created that show that all the ice contained in the comet can be sublimated into gas. This gas, when dispersed in the atmosphere, removes all traces of the explosion.
What should humanity remember? It is known that trees were destroyed mainly by an atmospheric shock wave and to a lesser extent by a heat wave. Some think it is unlikely that the comet was not noticed the day before the explosion in Tunguska. After all, the trajectory of the fall suggests that people should have seen a shining ball in the sky, similar to the Sun, which is so difficult for astronomers to detect.
By the way, this ball could also be small, depleted of the volatile substances responsible for the formation of colored tails characteristic of these bodies.
Regardless of the type of celestial body involved, or even if the origin of the explosion was different, the Tunguska event should be a reminder of how important it is for humanity to have an early warning system that should inform us about the likely impact of a meteorite or asteroid on our planet. After all, an explosion, 10 times smaller than this, but which occurred in any densely populated city in the world, would not have left a single whole building.