Tunguska – The Most Powerful Explosion by an Astronomical Object in Modern Times

Tunguska – The Most Powerful Explosion by an Astronomical Object in Modern Times
January 31, 2013

The most powerful natural explosion in recent Earth history occurred on 1908 June 30 when an astronomical object exploded above the Tunguska River in Siberia, Russia. About 2150 square kilometres of Siberian taiga were devastated and 80 millions trees were overthrown. The explosion is believed to have been caused by the air burst of a large meteoroid or comet fragment at an altitude of 5–10 kilometres (3–6 mi) above the Earth’s surface. Different studies have yielded widely varying estimates of the object’s size, on the order of 100 metres (330 ft). It is the largest impact event on or near Earth in Modern Times.

Estimates of the energy of the blast range from 5 to as high as 30 megatons of TNT with 10–15 megatons of TNT the most likely — roughly equal to the United States’ Castle Bravo thermonuclear bomb tested on March 1, 1954; about 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan; and about two-fifths the power of the later Soviet Union’s own Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated. An explosion of this magnitude is capable of destroying a large metropolitan area. This possibility has helped to spark discussion of asteroid deflection strategies.

Here’s a Dynamic map of the Tunguska Ground Zer Area:

2 Eyewitness reports:
At around 7:17 a.m. local time, witnesses settlers in the hills northwest of Lake Baikal observed a column of bluish light, nearly as bright as the Sun, moving across the sky. About 10 minutes later, there was a flash and a sound similar to artillery fire. Eyewitnesses closer to the explosion reported the sound source moving east to north. The sounds were accompanied by a shock wave that knocked people off their feet and broke windows hundreds of kilometres away. The majority of witnesses reported only the sounds and the tremors; not the sighting of the explosion.

Testimony of S. Semenov, as recorded by Leonid Kulik’s expedition in 1930.
At breakfast time I was sitting by the house at Vanavara Trading Post [65 kilometres/40 miles south of the explosion], facing north. […] I suddenly saw that directly to the north, over Onkoul’s Tunguska Road, the sky split in two and fire appeared high and wide over the forest [as Semenov showed, about 50 degrees up—expedition note]. The split in the sky grew larger, and the entire northern side was covered with fire. At that moment I became so hot that I couldn’t bear it, as if my shirt was on fire; from the northern side, where the fire was, came strong heat. I wanted to tear off my shirt and throw it down, but then the sky shut closed, and a strong thump sounded, and I was thrown a few metres. I lost my senses for a moment, but then my wife ran out and led me to the house. After that such noise came, as if rocks were falling or cannons were firing, the earth shook, and when I was on the ground, I pressed my head down, fearing rocks would smash it. When the sky opened up, hot wind raced between the houses, like from cannons, which left traces in the ground like pathways, and it damaged some crops. Later we saw that many windows were shattered, and in the barn a part of the iron lock snapped.

Testimony of Chuchan of Shanyagir tribe, as recorded by I.M. Suslov in 1926.
We had a hut by the river with my brother Chekaren. We were sleeping. Suddenly we both woke up at the same time. Somebody shoved us. We heard whistling and felt strong wind. Chekaren said, ‘Can you hear all those birds flying overhead?’ We were both in the hut, couldn’t see what was going on outside. Suddenly, I got shoved again, this time so hard I fell into the fire. I got scared. Chekaren got scared too. We started crying out for father, mother, brother, but no one answered. There was noise beyond the hut, we could hear trees falling down. Chekaren and I got out of our sleeping bags and wanted to run out, but then the thunder struck. This was the first thunder. The Earth began to move and rock, wind hit our hut and knocked it over. My body was pushed down by sticks, but my head was in the clear. Then I saw a wonder: trees were falling, the branches were on fire, it became mighty bright, how can I say this, as if there was a second sun, my eyes were hurting, I even closed them. It was like what the Russians call lightning. And immediately there was a loud thunderclap. This was the second thunder. The morning was sunny, there were no clouds, our Sun was shining brightly as usual, and suddenly there came a second one!
Chekaren and I had some difficulty getting out from under the remains of our hut. Then we saw that above, but in a different place, there was another flash, and loud thunder came. This was the third thunder strike. Wind came again, knocked us off our feet, struck against the fallen trees.
We looked at the fallen trees, watched the tree tops get snapped off, watched the fires. Suddenly Chekaren yelled ‘Look up’ and pointed with his hand. I looked there and saw another flash, and it made another thunder. But the noise was less than before. This was the fourth strike, like normal thunder.

Asteroid or comet:
In 2010, an expedition of Vladimir Alexeev, with scientists from the Troitsk Innovation and Nuclear Research Institute (TRINITY), used ground penetrating radar to examine the Suslov crater at the Tunguska site. What they found was that the crater was created by the violent impact of a celestial body. The layers of the crater consisted of modern permafrost on top, older damaged layers underneath and finally, deep below, fragments of the celestial body were discovered. Preliminary analysis showed that it was a huge piece of ice that shattered on impact, which seem to support the theory that a comet caused the cataclysm.

Lake Cheko:
In June 2007, scientists from the University of Bologna led by professor Giuseppe Longo[39] identified a lake in the Tunguska region as a possible impact crater from the event. They do not dispute that the Tunguska body exploded in midair but believe that a one-meter fragment survived the explosion and struck the ground. Pollen analysis reveals that remains of aquatic plants are abundant in the top post-1908 sequence but are absent in the lower pre-1908 portion of the core. These results, including organic C, N and δ13C data, suggest that Lake Cheko formed at the time of the Tunguska Event.

source: Wikipedia