What Caused the Tunguska Disaster?

What Caused the Tunguska Disaster?

The events that took place in the Tunguska taiga in 1908 still rank among the greatest mysteries of the 20th century, despite the considerable efforts of numerous scientists to solve this mystery.

Gigantic Explosion

The summer of 1908 was not ideal for the Tunguska region. It was here that one of the largest explosions ever recorded by humanity occurred. Fortunately, the Tunguska taiga is mostly uninhabited.

At that time, and still today, the territory is mostly inhabited by the indigenous Evenki tribes. Thus, it could be said that the colossal explosion had very few victims.

However, had it occurred near a larger population center, the incident could have claimed hundreds of thousands of human lives.

The explosion was truly gigantic, as it directly affected the Vanavara trading post, located approximately 70 km from the epicenter of the Tunguska disaster.

For some local residents, the wave of hot air ignited the clothes they were wearing.

Was an Asteroid to Blame?

Despite the enormity of the disaster, the tsarist regime at the time largely ignored the explosion. This is also why the site was not thoroughly mapped at the time.

It wasn't until 1921 that geologist Leonid Alexejevič Kulik set out to explore the affected area but didn't reach the impact site on his first expedition.

Kulik was persistent, however, and returned to the Tunguska region several times. Eventually, he examined the epicenter of the explosion but, to his disappointment, found nothing significant. He never had the chance to complete his research because World War II broke out, which Kulik did not survive.

A few years after the war, several Soviet expeditions ventured into Tunguska, but they were not particularly successful either.

It wasn't until the 1990s that research into the Tunguska mystery took a turn. Two Italian scientists, Guiseppe Longo and Menotti Galli, discovered chemical elements in the resin of scorched trees that are common mainly for stony meteorites.

The problem, however, is that no impact site has been found. Part of the scientific community flirted with the theory that Lake Cheko, which allegedly was formed by the meteorite, is the impact site.

However, the lake was formed naturally long before the disaster. Moreover, no traces of the meteorite were found in the lake.

Despite this, the impact of an extraterrestrial body remains the most probable theory we have today.

This theory is also supported by visual effects observed in the sky on the day of the disaster across much of Europe.

Alternative Theories

The perpetrator of the Tunguska explosion has not been unequivocally identified. It's no wonder, then, that a whole range of very bold theories have emerged. Among the relatively moderate theories, for example, are a collision with a body made of antimatter or a visit by a miniature black hole.

If a meteorite was behind the explosion, the question arises whether a similar disaster could occur in the future. If an extraterrestrial body were to fall on a city or its vicinity, the consequences would be catastrophic.

Fortunately, we are now able to monitor the sky very closely, and no collision with a potentially dangerous extraterrestrial body is realistically expected until the year 2185.