The sky split apart - Tunguska event
It was a drama that has occurred countless times in Earth's history, and that is sure to play again. The explosions were heard in the early morning hours of June 30, 1908.
Tungus tribesmen and Russian fur traders who happened to glance into the southeastern Siberian sky that fateful morning were startled to see a fireball streaking through the atmosphere toward their trading post of Vanavara and leaving a trail of light some 800 kilometers long.
Their gaze followed the bright fireball as it continued along a northwestward trajectory until it seemed about to disappear over the horizon. Then it shattered in a rapid series of cataclysmic explosions lasting about half a second over a distance of 15 to 20 kilometers.
The object shattered at an altitude of 7.6 kilometers and became the first such cosmic visitor to strike Earth in the life- time of civilized man.
"The sky split apart - Tunguska event and a great fire appeared," an eyewitness said. "It became so hot that one couldn't stand it. There was a deafening explosion."
What was this cosmic visitor? Some have suggested it was a black hole. Others have wondered if it was a piece of anti-matter.
A Japanese UFO group (Sakura) is convinced that it was the explosion of the nuclear power plant of an errant vehicle belonging to extraterrestrials. Most scientists point to a comet or an asteroid being the cosmic culprit.
To this day, the vast Tunguska region remains a desolate area of mosquito-infested bogs and swamps amid the beautiful hilly taiga. The power of the blast felled trees outward in a radial pattern over an area of 2,1504 square kilometers.
Roy A. Gallant, Southworth Planetarium, University of Southern Maine
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