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On This Day… The Tunguska Incident

Written by: George Chittenden : 21 Jul 2019

It was on this day, 30th June back in 1908 when a huge fireball ripped through the air above a remote forest in Siberia destroying 2,000 sq. km of forest and flattened about 80 million trees! The incident is known as the Tunguska event, and is the largest impact event on Earth in recorded history. Thankfully, despite the fact it’s regarded as an impact event, the explosion was down to the air burst of a meteoroid, which disintegrated at an altitude of 5 to 10 kilometres and didn’t actually impact on the surface. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a column of blue light, nearly as bright as the Sun, moving across the sky. Around ten minutes later a loud explosion was heard, and then a shockwave followed that knocked people off their feet and broke windows hundreds of kilometres away.

The Tunguska event was recorded at seismic stations across Europe and Asia, and in some places, the resulting shock wave was equivalent to an earthquake measuring 5.0 on the Richter magnitude scale. It also produced fluctuations in atmospheric pressure, that could be recorded as far away as Great Britain. Thankfully the incident took place over a sparsely populated forest, and not a major city. The Tunguska meteoroid brought a level of destruction to Earth hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, and despite the fact it killed a huge amount of wildlife it didn’t kill a single human. Let’s hope that next time we’re as lucky.

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