Wednesday, June 15, 2016

There Was a Hot Time in Tunguska That Night (7/1/08)

More than a hundred years later, no one is sure exactly what happened. Eyewitnesses described a column of blue light as bright as the sun that tore the sky in two and set it on fire, followed by an explosion the likes of which humans had never seen or heard.

It all happened in Tunguska, Russia, on July 1, 1908, when something came from the sky and devastated more than 800 square miles, flattening an estimated 80 million trees. The explosion was estimated at 1000 times the power of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. It was seen from 100 miles away, and the shock wave broke windows 250 miles from the point of impact. An Englishman reported that the sky on the north coast of Britain that night was so bright that he "could read a book by it."

Trees blown over by the Tunguska impact

The most surprising thing about the event was that virtually no lives were lost. Thanks to the remoteness of the impact site (the center of Siberia), the only casualty was a reindeer herder who was thrown into the air and against a tree - twenty miles from ground zero. Astonishingly, for all the commotion, there was no immediate investigation. The first exploration party didn't even arrive until 1927, and no one thought to take aerial photographs until 1938. Numerous theories of what the event was have been floated: asteroids, comets, black holes, antimatter, UFOs - even Nikola Tesla testing a "death ray." But no one theory provides all the answers.

If it was an asteroid, we can be thankful that it struck where it did. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has warned that if an asteroid hit in the right part of the Pacific Ocean, it would wipe out most of the Pacific Rim. Sounds like Russia got off cheap.

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