The most mysterious space alien of the 20th century is the Tunguska meteorite. It fell in the area of the Siberian river Tunguska on the morning of June 30, 1908. On that day, the sky was lit up with a bright glow, and the air explosion that followed it destroyed a huge area of the forest and knocked out the windows of houses within a radius of 200 km. However, neither meteorite fragments, nor traces of the use of weapons of mass destruction, nor the wreckage of an alien ship was ever found.
According to NASA experts, the diameter of the meteorite was 75 m, and the force of the explosion was equal to the power of a thermonuclear bomb. By the way, after the fall of the Chelyabinsk meteorite in 2013, scientists found more than 100 fragments. The largest of them weighs almost 700 kg.
How did everything happen?
The morning of June 30, 1908, in Eastern Siberia began with a startling event. In the sky above the basin of the Podkamennaya Tunguska River (located in the Evenki district of the Krasnoyarsk Territory), a powerful bright ball-bolide caught fire for several seconds. Its movement from the southeast to the northwest was accompanied by thunderous sounds.
Moving in the sky, the fireball left behind a bright trail, visible within a radius of up to 800 kilometers in Eastern Siberia. The unusual radiance persisted for several hours.
The light phenomenon was followed by a deafening explosion at an altitude of 7-10 kilometers. The energy of the explosion was from 10 to 40 megatons, which is equivalent to the power of two thousand nuclear bombs, like the one that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.
Immediately after the explosion, a wave of destruction spread for 40 kilometers, overturning trees, animals, and people. As a result of light radiation, the taiga flared up in the adjacent area, and the place that had fallen out of the trees took on the shape of a butterfly. The total area of destruction was 2150 square kilometers, comparable to the territory of Moscow.
Meteorological observatories in different countries registered a shock wave that circled the globe.
During the first day after the disaster, an unusual atmospheric phenomenon occurred, which covered almost the entire northern hemisphere. From Bordeaux to Tashkent, from the shores of the Atlantic to Krasnoyarsk, strange atmospheric phenomena were noticed. Air shadows acquired an unusual shade and intensity, the night sky lit up, forming a bright silvery glow, and during the day optical effects were observed – halos and crowns around the sun. This radiance was so bright that many residents had difficulty falling asleep. The clouds, which formed at an altitude of about 80 kilometers, intensely reflected the sun’s rays, giving the impression of bright nights even in regions where this had not been observed before. In some cities, it was easy to read the fine print of the newspaper at night, and in Greenwich, they even got a picture of the seaport at midnight. This amazing phenomenon continued for several nights in a row.
The disaster also caused changes in the Earth’s magnetic field, which were recorded both in Irkutsk and in the German city of Kiel. These magnetic fluctuations were reminiscent of magnetic field disturbances that are observed after high-altitude nuclear explosions.
The scene was examined by investigators, and it was observed that the wood had been felled in a fan-like manner, centered on the point of the explosion. Some of the trees turned out to be without branches, but standing on the vine. Despite intense destruction, the meteorite was never found.
Over the taiga, there was a powerful explosion that knocked down the forest over a huge area, but what caused it left no traces.
In June 2013, the journal Planetary and Space Science published the results of a scientific study conducted by Ukrainian, German, and American scientists. This group of researchers analyzed microscopic samples found by Soviet scientist Nikolai Kovalykh in 1978 in the Podkamennaya Tunguska area. As a result of the analysis, the presence of such minerals as lonsdaleite, troilite, taenite, and schreibersite was revealed. The scientists noted that “the composition of the samples is close to the full range of minerals characteristic of diamond-bearing meteorites.”
However, the focus of this study caught the attention of an Australian Curtin University researcher, Phil Bland. He drew attention to the low concentration of iridium in the studied samples, which is unusual for meteorites. He also noted that the dating of the peat where the samples were found does not correspond to 1908, which means that the stones found could have come to Earth before or after the famous explosion.
In 2019, the NASA Ames Research Center published the results of their latest study on the Tunguska meteorite. In light of new data, scientists are inclined to believe that the meteorite was most likely a stone body with a diameter of 50 to 75 meters, and not a comet, as previously thought. It entered the atmosphere at a speed of 15 kilometers per second. This study also led to a re-evaluation of the frequency with which bodies of this size fall to Earth. Previously, it was believed that such events occur once every few centuries, but now the interval of this time has increased to a couple of millennia.
Subsequently, in 2020, Siberian scientists presented their version of events. According to their research, the Tunguska phenomenon was caused by the fall of an iron asteroid. Stone and ice are fragile. The asteroid should have shattered into pieces while still at altitude. This asteroid had the most probable size of 100 to 200 meters. Its entry into the Earth’s atmosphere occurred at an altitude of 10–15 kilometers at a speed of about 20 kilometers per second. An important aspect was the angle of entry into the atmosphere, which did not exceed 11.5 degrees. But, instead of falling to the Earth’s surface, the asteroid continued to move in a near-solar orbit, while losing half of its initial mass.
By the decision of the UN, the day of the fall of the Tunguska meteorite became the International Asteroid Day.