The Tunguska event is a mystery that has endured for over a century. Many theories have come up to attempt to explain the event, ranging from the somewhat unlikely to downright paranormal.
On June 30, 1908, a massive explosion occurred over a forest near the Podkamennaya Tunguska river in Siberia. The explosion created a fireball that had reportedly been up to 100 meters wide and brought down around 80 million trees. There were no human casualties because the area was hardly inhabited. However, that didn't mean that no one felt the effects of the explosion.
Inhabitants of the nearest town, which was 60 kilometers away from the site of the event, felt the earth shake from the force of the explosion. They reportedly even felt the heat on their faces, and some were knocked off their feet. The explosion also blew in windows on buildings in the town. Eyewitness reports say that the “sky split in two” and appeared to be on fire. There was a loud crash, then a noise that sounded like rocks falling from the sky.
Probably the most obvious explanation for the Tunguska event would be that an asteroid or meteor crashed into the earth. It was the most powerful event of its kind, reportedly producing 185 times more energy than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. Places as far as the UK also observed the effects of this event.
However, conventional wisdom says that fallen asteroids or meteors leave evidence of their arrival, like craters. A large extraterrestrial body would have caused an event of this magnitude—however, no one has found a crater. In fact, some have disputed that an asteroid, meteor, or comet caused the event.
Huge, mysterious phenomena like the Tunguska event are often fodder for a number of out-of-this-world theories. A number of people have suggested that an alien spacecraft crashed in the area. Others, meanwhile, suggested that the collision of matter and antimatter caused a massive burst of energy that may account for the explosion. In 1973, the otherwise reputable journal Nature published a paper claiming that a black hole collided into Earth and caused the event.
Of course, many scientists hardly took these theories, and the mysterious phenomenon remained a mystery.
This is the first of a two-part series on unraveling the mysteries surrounding the Tunguska event.
Get weekly science updates in your inbox!