Why The Largest Asteroid Impact In Recorded History Still Puzzling
By ELI SHAYOTOVICH
Tech - News
According to Marina Brozovic, a NASA scientist in California, the Earth is constantly bombarded by asteroids, but fortunately, most are so small that they burn up before ever reaching the ground. However, back in 1908 at around 7:13 a.m. (local Siberia time) on June 30 near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Siberia, Russia, "The Tunguska Event" occurred.
The generally accepted theory is that either an asteroid or comet entered Earth's atmosphere and exploded about 15,000–30,000 feet (3 – 6 miles) above the river. The mid-airburst was comparable to 15 megatons of TNT, one thousand times more potent than “Little Boy,” the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during WWII.
This explosion decimated an 800 square mile area (500,000 acres) of forest and flattened over 80 million pine trees. According to David Morrison, a planetary science researcher at NASA's Ames Research Center, "Tunguska is the largest cosmic impact witnessed by modern humans."
Surprisingly, the first investigation of the site didn't happen until 1927, with an expedition led by Leonid Alekseyevich Kulik. The expedition would shockingly yield zero evidence of an impact crater or any fragments indicating what actually caused the massive explosion, despite very little vegetation regrowth to hide anything.
Over the years, eyewitness accounts from that time have resurfaced and filled in some of the gaps, but so far they have only created more questions. One theory is that it was a near-miss event: As Earth was passing by the "Taurid swarm" of meteors, one might have grazed it before veering back into space, which would explain why no fragments have been found yet.