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Mystery still surrounds 1908 Tunguska event

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Teri Charboneau
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« on: July 12, 2016, 01:53:24 am »



Over 100 years after the most powerful explosion in documented history, researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what happened

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    By Melissa Hogenboom

7 July 2016

On 30 June 1908, an explosion ripped through the air above a remote forest in Siberia, near the Podkamennaya Tunguska river.

The fireball is believed to have been 50-100m wide. It depleted 2,000 sq km of the taiga forest in the area, flattening about 80 million trees.

The earth trembled. Windows smashed in the nearest town over 35 miles (60km) away. Residents there even felt heat from the blast, and some were blown off their feet.

    The crash was followed by a noise like stones falling from the sky, or of guns firing

Fortunately, the area in which this massive explosion occurred was sparsely inhabited. There were no official reports of human casualties, though one local deer herder reportedly died after he was thrust into a tree from the blast. Hundreds of reindeer were also reduced to charred carcasses.

One eyewitness account said that "the sky was split in two, and high above the forest the whole northern part of the sky appeared covered with fire…

"At that moment there was a bang in the sky and a mighty crash… The crash was followed by a noise like stones falling from the sky, or of guns firing."

This "Tunguska event" remains the most powerful of its kind recorded in history – it produced about 185 times more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb (with some estimates coming in even higher). Seismic rumbles were even observed as far away as the UK.

And yet, over a hundred years later researchers are still asking questions about what exactly took place on that fateful day. Many are convinced that it was an asteroid or a comet that was responsible for the blast. But very few traces of this large extraterrestrial object have ever been found, opening the way for more outlandish explanations for the explosion.

 

The Tunguska region of Siberia is a remote place, with a dramatic climate. It has a long hostile winter and a very short summer, when the ground changes into a muddy uninhabitable swamp. This makes the area extremely hard to get to.

When the explosion happened, nobody ventured to the site to investigate. This was partly because the Russian authorities had more pressing concerns than sating scientific curiosity, says Natalia Artemieva of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona.
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