The pastoral picture above (taken by L. Pelekhan) depicts a peaceful meadow in Siberia. However, 105 years ago today, on June 30, 1908, this exact spot was the epicenter of a large explosion from some type of celestial body–a meteor, asteroid or fragment of a comet–which struck the Earth. This incident has come to be known as the “Tunguska event,” named after the place where it occurred.
Celestial impacts are rare, but as they go, we (the human race) got off really lucky with Tunguska. Whatever hit the planet was relatively small, and it impacted on land in one of the most remote and unpopulated areas of the globe. It might just as easily have come down in New York City, or in a coastal ocean, causing a tsunami that might have made the 2004 Indonesia tsunami look like a ripple in a bathtub. If the fragment had been larger it could have had an effect similar to the K-T Event–that’s the asteroid that struck the earth 65 million years ago and is generally credited with causing climate change that wiped out the dinosaurs.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the Tunguska Event, and it’s an example of a fascinating event in history that has been totally ruined by the Internet. It’s extremely difficult to find reliable information about Tunguska without bringing up literally thousands of links about how it was supposedly a UFO, a nuclear explosion or some other ridiculous theory. Indeed, originally I hoped this post would be a link to some video from the expedition of Leonard Kulik, a Soviet scientist who was the first to investigate the impact zone in the 1920s, but I simply couldn’t find any real footage in amongst the silly UFO crap. However, there are some great pictures of the Tunguska event site, such as the one above, many gathered through various scientific expeditions to the region.
Suffice it to say, on this day 105 years ago, we were extremely fortunate!
Read more on the Tunguska Event here.