The world’s biggest explosion – a blast in Russia the size of 185 Hiroshima bombs that was felt as far away as Britain and the US – remains a mystery after experts debunked ‘proof’ it was a meteorite.
A large fireball was seen crossing the Siberian sky on June 20, 1908 before an eruption six miles above ground flattened 80 million trees and left charred reindeer carcases.
Italian scientists spent 21 years researching the so-called Tunguska event, claiming the blue-water Lake Cheko filled a ‘missing’ impact crater – giving rise to the theory that the phenomenon was caused by a meteorite.
But a new study by Russian geologists suggests the idea is flawed, meaning the huge blast – which lit up the night sky in Europe and even America – is still a mystery, according to reports in Moscow.
In a review published in 2016 in the Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Natalia Artemieva of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona explains that the event followed a clear course.
Whatever caused the event likely entered the atmosphere at 9-19 miles per second, and would have been extremely fragile, destroying itself roughly six miles above Earth.
The possibility of an asteroid explosion was first proposed in 1927 by Leonid Kulik, 20 years after the event.
Others suggested the space-object may instead have been a comet, made up of ice rather than rock, meaning it would have evaporated as it entered Earth’s atmosphere.
But, some scientists warn that these findings do not definitively explain the bizarre explosion – with meteor showers being a frequent occurrence, these samples could be the remnants of a much smaller, unnoticed event.
To some degree, the Tunguska event still remains a mystery, which scientists are continually working to solve – but, whether it be from a comet or asteroid, most agree that the explosion was caused by a large cosmic body slamming into Earth’s atmosphere.