This is the second of a two-part series on unraveling the mysteries of the Tunguska event.
The first part of this series discussed what happened during this mysterious phenomenon and the strange theories that people came up with to explain it. This second part will discuss the more scientific ways that scientists approached the mystery.
Finally, in 2013, a team of scientists worked to stop the literally outlandish theories once and for all. Researchers got a hold of microscopic rock fragments that scientists had collected from the explosion site in 1978.
These fragments had a meteoric origin and, more importantly, had a layer of peat that that reportedly formed in 1908.
Researchers found that these rock fragments had traces of a mineral called lonsdaleite, which forms when meteors crash into Earth. Victor Kvatsnytsya, lead author of the study, says that scientists had been focused on looking for large rock fragments. This set significantly set back the discovery of the origins of the event, because the answers apparently lay in the microscopic fragments that the research team studied.
Even so, this discovery has not put the mystery of the Tunguska event to rest. Scientists still cast some doubts on this study, and some have called the age of the peat on the fragments into question.
Today, however, there's somewhat of a consensus that a large extraterrestrial body—not an alien spacecraft, though—caused the large explosion.
Scientists now think that a particular series of events led to the massive explosion in 1908. They theorize that a cosmic body entered the Earth's atmosphere at a speed of up to 30 kilometers per hour. The atmosphere broke this body apart, as the atmosphere is wont to do. In the Tunguska event, the cosmic body got completely obliterated about 8 to 10 kilometers above the ground.
The atmosphere then broke the pieces down into even smaller fragments. The kinetic energy, meanwhile, transformed these fragments into heat. This may explain the lack of remnants of the cosmic body—whatever space rock remnants there were essentially became space dust.
As the object entered the Earth and broke apart, there was an air burst that took down all the trees in the area.
While this theory may seem sound, the scientific community has not yet declared it to be fact. What's definite, however, is that the Tunguska event is explainable. There's no need to look to unlikely or even paranormal theories to explain the mysterious.
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