The Tunguska event was not a meteorite. Scientists proposed a new explanation for the century-old mystery

© Photograph from 1929 expedition taken near the Hushmo River
The Tunguska event was not a meteorite. Scientists proposed a new explanation for the century-old mystery
28 Апр 2020, 21:39

Russian scientists have found a new explanation for the Tunguska event. They believe that catastrophic destruction in Russia arose after the passage of an iron asteroid through the Earth’s atmosphere. Shock waves tumbled down trees in the taiga, leaving no meteorite fragments on the surface.

On June 30, 1908, an event occurred over Siberia in the region of the Podkamennaya Tunguska River. The scientists still argue about its reasons. Decades of research have not brought any new results.

Researchers from the Krasnoyarsk Scientific Center performed calculations of the trajectory and mass of the space object, the external forces acting on it and changes in the initial velocity to find out what it was.

According to scientists, the destruction created by the Tunguska space body could be caused by a shock wave. An explosive strike could occur when an iron object passed through the Earth’s atmosphere. This hypothesis contradicts the widespread belief that the Tunguska event was the result of the fall of the comet's core consisting of ice.

To test the theory, scientists have created a model of the behaviour pattern of small asteroids in the Earth’s atmosphere. “We calculated the trajectory characteristics for space objects with a diameter of 200 to 50 meters, consisting of iron, ice or rock, such as quartz and lunar soil,” explains Sergey Karpov, a leading researcher at the Institute of Physics of the Krasnoyarsk Scientific Center. “The model shows that the Tunguska body could have not consisted of stone or ice, since the low strength of these internally heterogeneous materials leads to the rapid destruction of such bodies in the atmosphere under tremendous aerodynamic pressure.”

The simulation results showed that the Tunguska phenomenon was caused by an iron asteroid ranging in size from 100 to 200 meters. It passed through the Earth’s atmosphere at an altitude of 10-15 kilometers at a speed of about 20 kilometers per second. Then the asteroid continued to move in a circumsolar orbit, losing about half of its initial mass, which could have exceeded three million tons.

Such an object could create a shock wave, capable of knocking down trees over an area of ​​more than one and a half thousand square kilometers, without leaving any traces of the original body on the Earth's surface.

Elia Kabanov

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