Tunguska Fireball 1908

On June 30, 1908, a giant fireball raced across the night sky. Then it exploded with the force of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs killing herds of reindeer and scorching hundreds of miles of trees. It happened in a remote place in Siberia called Tunguska. The night sky had a strange orange glow as far away as Western Europe. The only proof that something happened was a quiver on a seismograph 1,000 miles away in the city of Irkutusk. Scientists did not come to the sight for another 19 years. When they finally did come, what they saw was a place of utter devastation. They searched for a crater, a piece of an asteroid or meteorite but found nothing. They were able to find eyewitnesses in neighboring villages though. They recalled that there had been a fireball streaking through the sky, a horrifying noise, and an enormous blast. Portion of one of the photos from Kulik’s aerial photographic survey (1938) (Below)of the Tunguska region. The parallel fallen trees indicate the direction of the blast wave.The first person to visit Tunguska was Leonid Kulik. When he first saw the vast area of charred trees, he thought that a huge fire had started all at once. Kulik and his team photographed the area and searched for meteorite fragments but found nothing. Over the next 14 years, he lead four more expeditions to Tunguska, but turned up empty-handed. Kulik died in 1942 as a prisoner of war. Since then, Russian scientists have gone to Tunguska ever summer. One of the most useful things they did was map the entire 850 square mile region of tree fall. This task took them 35 years to do. This map has allowed scientist to calculate that the blast must have been four miles above the Earth with a force of 10 to 20 megatons of TNT. The precise cause of the explosion is still unexplained.

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