In late June of 1908, a massive explosion with the force of 15 megaton atomic bomb hit an area of western Siberia near the Tunguska River, flattened about 800 square miles of forest and killed several caribou. It was not until the 1930s that geophysicists were able to explore the region, and they were left puzzled and unable to pin-point the cause.

Since (at least) the ’60s, the favorite explanation has been that the explosion had been caused in the atmosphere by a massive meteor/small asteroid strike, or possibly a comet, all of which would have been quite difficult to detect if the objects came from the general direction of the sun. Less popular (and less likely) alternatives have been proposed, including small black holes and large alien spacecraft experiencing landing difficulties.

In any case, the mystery has persisted because of the extreme lack of physical evidence at the sight. Except for lots and lots of knocked-down trees with their trunks radiating from a central point, no meteor fragments or spacecraft parts have ever been found in the area. Not even a clear crater had ever been found to mark the spot of the explosion.

until perhaps now.

In their new study, a team of Italian scientists used acoustic imagery to investigate the bottom of Lake Cheko, about five miles (eight kilometers) north of the explosion’s suspected epicenter.

“When our expedition [was at] Tunguska, we didn’t have a clue that Lake Cheko might fill a crater,” said Luca Gasperini, a geologist with the Marine Science Institute in Bologna who led the study.

“We searched its bottom looking for extraterrestrial particles trapped in the mud. We mapped the basin and took samples. As we examined the data, we couldn’t believe what they were suggesting.

“The funnel-like shape of the basin and samples from its sedimentary deposits suggest that the lake fills an impact crater,” Gasperini said.

Explore posts in the same categories: Astronomy, Science, Space

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