Everything you ever wanted to know about the Tunguska event

Except, unfortunately, what the heck it was. The Tunguska event was the mysterious explosion of unidentified origin that occured in a remote area of Siberia on 30 June 1908, flattening trees over 2000 square kilometers, but leaving no trace of a crater. Archy has put together a thorough account of what we know, including some of the speculation about the causes.

I rather liked the idea that it was a curse by the thunder god, Ogdy, mainly because "Ogdy" is such a cute name.

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tags: researchblogging.org, Tunguska event, Siberian explosion, Podkamennaya Tunguska River, Lake Cheko, planet earth, astronomy Flattened trees cover vast areas of Northeastern Siberia after the mysterious Tunguska explosion in June, 1908. Image: TASS/Sovfoto (public domain?) [larger view]. As…
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In 1908, a huge fireball streaked across the sky and exploded a few kilometers above the Earth's surface, downing trees for miles and miles around but leaving no impact crater on the ground. This mystery was known as the Tunguska event. But how did this happen? The amount of energy released was…

The sci-fi fan in me wants to believe it's a spaceship with an anti-matter drive that was crashing and directed to a low-population zone of the northern hemisphere.

But chances are it was a meteor or comet.

I understand there was a coyote, a roadrunner, and a very, very large stick of dynamite involved.

Or maybe some doofus tried to summon Azathoth and flipped out before dismissing the Daemon Sultan of the Outer Gods, with the usual effects...

(chuckle)

The MadPanda, FCD

What a coinkydink! I just finally got to the Event itself, about 800 pages into Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day.

Please don't tell me what caused it! I'm betting on the Raketenmensch!!

Alverant:

The sci-fi fan in me wants to believe it's a spaceship with an anti-matter drive that was crashing and directed to a low-population zone of the northern hemisphere.

From what I hear, those things are pretty unreliable. They work fine in interstellar space but once they enter the atmosphere they start dropping like flies... megaton blast sized flies anyways. Death traps, I believe is what Consumer Reports called them.

I see PZ has been watching Dawkins commentating on astronomical events in the latest Dr Who episode and has likewise decided to stray outside his field of expertise on this one.
Do you know what Scienceblogs really needs?
A good popular astronomy based blogger.
Perhaps like, for instance, Phil Plaits Bad Astronomy blog....

Read 2 theories about it recently,either some gas explosion from a bubble of gas in the ground that was somehow freed,or a very small but heavy meteor that came down,there is an expedition looking for it in a lake near the epicenter of the blast at the moment,if im not mistaken.
Link here:

http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/070626_st_tunguska_crater.html

This event always makes me think of Cosmos. Now I want to watch it.

The sci-fi fan in me wants to believe it's a spaceship with an anti-matter drive that was crashing and directed to a low-population zone of the northern hemisphere.

This is the premise of Donald R. Benson's And Having Writ, which is (IMHO) one of the best and funniest (and underrated) sci-fi novels of all time. Do you know it?

By noncarborudum (not verified) on 30 Jun 2008 #permalink

Obviously there were sinners in the area and God smote them mightily.

INCIDENT REPORT (ABSTRACT)
From: Time Workers Accident Team (TWAT)
Subject: Reality collision at Tunguska

Abstract
On 17th June 1908 (local calendar), Mr J. "Lord" Carpentersson of Nazareth, having completed his mission of c.2000 years previously, was attempting to return to base at the Southern North Pole. He never arrived, and instead destroyed a large part of Siberia near Tunguska. No remains have been found, and he is now presumed to be disencorporal. The cause of the incident has never been satisfactorily determined, albeit the evidence of complete disintegration of Mr Carpentersson, his machine, and parts of Siberia are consistent with a collision with reality. Indeed, the primary question has always been how Mr Carpentersson materialised over Tunguska instead of on the landing field under the Southern North Pole.

Exhaustive simulations with a pile of Smelly Spices and a congregation of Tamed Daemons have now yielded a plausible hypothesis. Mr Carpentersson apparently confused his propaganda materials with the operating and navigation manuals, and used a value of 3 for π. Consequently, the usual method of navigation by "following the left triangles" progressively moved Mr Carpentersson out of the safe areas of belief, and into increasing contact with real matter. It must remain a matter of speculation why Mr Carpentersson's warning faiths were ignored (it is beyond belief that his faiths failed him), but the further Mr Carpentersson drifted out of safe mindlessness, the more rapidly his mythical shields would have eroded. Eventually an atom of reality would have leaked in with the similar catastrophic results to those that launched Atlantis into orbit around Andromeda.

TWAT therefore recommends that, in the future and past, all operatives have any vestiges of intelligence removed. A long-running experiment with Rome, the Bishop Of, has confirmed the soundness of this approach. There has been a quite satisfactory progression of ranting bigotry, violent warfare, and perverse sexual behaviours (some of which astound even the the Untamed Daemons) ever since the position was manufactured. This has distracted everyone from Teh True Purpose of Teh Real Overlords.

Following up on Norm's suggestion @ #11, I think Tunguska was the site of the 1908 Siberian Gay Pride Celebration, a fact the Lavender Mafia have sent down the memory hole, for obvious reasons.

Did anyone else catch that bit about the clowns... ???

I think it may have been that 2day old chili con carne ,boss

Activating FTL in a gravity-well! Never a good idea!

#6 - Foreshadowing? *music* duh duh duuuuuhhhh!

#12 - Classic! Ha! FTW!

By Charlie Foxtrot (not verified) on 30 Jun 2008 #permalink

It was obviously a UFO. These aliens aren't the brightest bulbs in the galaxy, and don't know how to land without killing themselves in a 1,000 hiroshima explosion.

Or...maybe they were shot down in an intergalactic dogfight!

HHmmmmmmm,
Big explosive event- located in Russia
Big enema bulb- located in Russia

Coincidence....I think NOT!!!!

By Bride of Shrek (not verified) on 30 Jun 2008 #permalink

Question for #12: How can I get into TWAT?

Question for everyone else: Was my question for #12 funny only because it's the wee hours of the morning?

@ blf,No 12 :

I have you down for a Molly nomination for that one pal,that was just great,absolutely hilarious !

@ Bride of Shrek :

Will you go on holiday to Russia with me? The things one could do,in say,Zheleznovodsk...

I am a biblical creationist and knew but reread what this myers guy pointed his readers too on this event.
The thing I would point out is that the interpretation of the blast was frustrated by the so called science of the day because of their presumptions of uniformatarianism.
This is what happened in the missoula flood case and today stops more accurate readings of geology from seeing all rock creation as sudden events.
It was not ernest researchers getting their analysis wrong but it was a framework of presumptive conclusions that retarded seeing the blast as a meteor. It was a bigger concept that interfered with creativity and investigation and , well, science.
This happened a lot because they were all fighting desperately in the English-speaking world to overthrow the credibility of the bible.
Motive on motive.
Then and now uniformitarianism is a error that blocks accuracy and truth on origins.
Creationism with episodes explains better the great events of the planet.

By Robert Byers (not verified) on 30 Jun 2008 #permalink

30 000 AD another sivilization makes archeological expedition on earth in Siberia:

-Ahha huge Tunguska explosion
-Ahha above it there is a layer of electrified Russia, they call it "Lenin", theirs God and process "revolution"
-ahha layer of executions and famine, now they seem call it something God made of steel, "Stalin"
-Ahha a lot of rocket silos with nuke energy, hmm... they tried desperately escape from earth
-ahha layer of warming effects, poisonous waste etc , now they call it "communism" and later "Greenhouse"

..So something terrible "perminianian extinction" really happened..

Byers the Idiot@23

Have you noticed that the Missoula floods, Tunguska, the end of the Cretaceous and many, many other catastrophic events have been accepted by scientific geology - because of the evidence? Science, unlike your stupid creationist fantasies, is self-correcting.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 30 Jun 2008 #permalink

#23:

This [presumptions of uniformatarianism] is what happened in the missoula flood case and today stops more accurate readings of geology from seeing all rock creation as sudden events.

That, and the fossils.

Robert Byers @ #23
"It was not ernest researchers getting their analysis wrong"

....sorry Robster, don't know any researchers called Ernest.

By Bride of Shrek (not verified) on 30 Jun 2008 #permalink

Second Coming of Jesus.
...Jesus got the angle of re-entry a bit off and boom! Tunguska!

I think it was the 2208 Trans-Temporal Tricentennial Tunguska expedition, colliding with the 2209 Trans-Temporal Tunguska rescue mission.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 30 Jun 2008 #permalink

The Gaint Particle Theory

It was caused by a Gaint Particle which escaped from the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland which collapsed into a mini black hole causing a space time rift, somewhere between the 5th and 7th dimensions and crashed into Siberia a hundred years ago.

#23

Creationism with episodes explains better the great events of the planet.

You know, what fascinates me more than than the idea that creationism is true is that those who propose it believe they know better than just about everyone in the scientific community.

Perhaps you could give us a list of your scientific qualifications, especially in geology? If you are going to question centuries of scientific work, you must have a good scientific background to make such a statement?

Byers @ 23 I see you haven't found that shit god of yours yet. So your intelligently designed tornadoes that leave your dead god believers draped over trees is surely a creation episode. I have a theory on Tunguska with a insane religious bent to it. A Black Hole had picked up your shit god from another galaxy and crapped it over Russia with such force that it spread out while still in the atmosphere, disintegrated, and only the blast was apparent because of the invisibility of non-matter. That is what your imaginary shit god is: non-matter, non-existent. We are waiting for your shit god to come down and beat the crap out of us. Or is it still impacted in your rectum? Come on, I dare you. Either shit or commit suicide so you can meet this invisible crap!

I'm actually thinking it might have been the site of the Rapture. And none of us took any notice if it.

By Bride of Shrek (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Creationism with brain seizure episodes explains better the origin of those daft enough to believe in creationism. I read #23 twice and couldn't even sort out what the idiot meant. But maybe it's no accident. I've often noticed that people who believe this kind of dreck have trouble producing language utterances that are logically coherent, and are totally incapable of following a sequence of logically presented steps in an argument. You can corner them in a debate and they don't even realize they have been cornered. Trying to educate them seems like a hopeless task.

Obviously they didn't look for the Lagrange point well enough, and it all went horribly bad.

Tobin's Spirit Guide makes it clear the Tunguska blast was the biggest interdimensional cross-rip in history, until Gozer stepped into New York City.

This is what happened in the missoula flood case and today stops more accurate readings of geology from seeing all rock creation as sudden events.

The geosciences community doesn't view "all rock creation" as being formed gradually over time. Stop lying about what we do. Don't you have a commandment about that?

Are you saying this Byers guy is for real? And here I was thinking he was using some kind of weird humour...

I'm actually thinking it might have been the site of the Rapture

In an area where the reindeer outnumber the people by a factor of eight? I think you've nailed the origin of one of our most popular Christmas stories. Well done, Tovarishch Nevesta Shreka!

Uh, the South Dakota fossil trees aren't the result of some single cataclysm. They span a number of different stratigraphic horizons.

That's what you get when you design in Metric, but fly in Imperial...

By Charlie Foxtrot (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Ever notice the giant crater in the western quarter of the united states?

Go to the mapquest satellite viewer and use the aerial mode to view the western united states. Zoom to the third level from the bottom. Check the labels box.

No look at where boise, idaho is located. Just north east of boise is a very large impact recoil peak. There is another recoil peak just north east of Baker City Oregon. Uncheck the labels box and look carefully at the area to the east, over to the area of yellowstone park and the northwest corner of wyoming.

To the north and south of the yellowstone area, the crater rim is readily visible.

Follow the arc of the crater south.. to the south west, up to the north along the western cascade mountains up through washington and on around the canada border and on down south to reconnect back at the yellowstone area.

That is one big freakin impact crater. About 1000 miles in diameter! There is more to the south and appears that there were more than just the one impact.

Is this what destroyed these trees? Cracked the Earth?

www.flickr.com/photos/blackhillsgiants

I had hoped to get through Canada Day without encountering the Toronto embarassment that is Robert Byers. At least this time he managed to be unintentionally funny.

Blf, #12, that seems the most likely explanation. I giggled in my coffee.

Og, you really should go check out a geologic map of the area around Idaho.

Og, even granting the existence of such a crater and the event that created it, do you really believe that could possibly have happened only 100 years ago? That it somehow managed to level a roughly circular 800-square-mile circular area of trees in Siberia, while magically leaving the forests - and human settlements - of the north-western and north-central US (and adjacent areas of Canada) completely untouched?!

This conclusion defies all logic and evidence.

Think, man. Think.

No no no! it wasn't God, it was the Alien Laser cannons!
They don't want you to know!

Well, okay... they don't want you to know, because the Vogons accidentally fired off one of their destructor beams, and you know, they're so embarrassed about it all. And besides, they want to avoid a class-action suit. If they lost, they'd have to pay out £2.59 to everyone on earth, and it would just ruin the budget.

As I suspected. This board has its share of slow pupils. I lived in Idaho for 25 years and I know the area quite well.
I now live in the Black Hills (20 years) and also know this area quite well. I study it every day.

#47 you assume to know what I believe. Do you see anywhere that I said it happened 100 years ago? No. Pay some attention to what you read.

Take your own advice and "think, man, THINK!"

DLC, you start reading Vogon poetry and someone is going to get their brain throttled with their large intestine.

Arrgh!!! #31 beat me to it!!! My first thought, after yesterday's post on the LHC, was that it will open a temporal rift going back a century, except (due to human fallibility or the mischievous tweaking of God-man, I cannot say) it will be off by a couple months and a few thousand miles (August to June, Switzerland to Siberia). Remember how Bruce Willis was supposed to be sent back to 1996 in 12 Monkeys but ended up briefly in World War I? Same prinicple of temporal physics. As a mode of shameless self-promotion (and a lame attempt at humor), see my theory on torchyons, subatomic particles that will emerge from the LHC and go all evil-Johnny-Storm on us.

Aside to #23:

It was not ernest researchers getting their analysis wrong but it was a framework of presumptive conclusions that retarded seeing the blast as a meteor. It was a bigger concept that interfered with creativity and investigation and , well, science.

Who's really the one making presumptive conclusions here? I happen to think it was a Cylon basestar that hit Tunguska, and that is why we haven't been invaded by Cylons yet. You're the one who insists on relying on a 2,000 year-old book, when a 30 year-old (and also current) television series provides an equally probable explanation. Think about it, dude. Jeebus luvs u.

Now that I think about it, it probably was just a meteor.

I happen to think it was a Cylon basestar that hit Tunguska

And you are talking out of your ass. Basestar. Hah. It was the fleet they had based on Gamoray obviously. With tanker support. Twit.

Og: I don't assume to know anything about you, other than what I can glean from reading your comments. So when you wrote, "Unknown mega cataclysm in South Dakota Black Hills did these trees in," were you not referring to the trees allegedly felled by the Tunguska event? If I misread, I apologize, but in reviewing the thread, it's hard to see what other trees you possibly could have meant. Please clarify. Thank you.

clinteas (#7) I assume that when you said epicenter you meant hypocentre (or possibly even just 'centre/center', if you're referring to the event being an eruption like the diamond pipes in South Africa).

An epicentre is above wherever the action was centred -- hence it's use almost exclusively for earthquakes until a few years back when it somehow got splurged across the linguistic landscape like a bursting glacial lake. If the Tunguska Event was an airburst of one kind or another, the epicentre would probably be somewhere in the stratosphere or above.

The classic example of a hypocentre is the domed building in Hiroshima that was near to directly beneath the bomb's explosion point.

Mez FRSP

blf @12:
That was awesome.

Kseniya:
Tovarishch Nevesta Shreka? Google gives zero hits.

By Stagyar zil Doggo (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Tovarishch Nevesta Shreka is (perhaps unsophisticated) Russian for:

"Comrade Bride-of-Shrek"

:-)

Kseniya, I think Og was referring to the fossil trees in South Dakota, not the ones laid over by the Tunguska blast. I think "these trees" referred to some pictures he has of (I think, the pics aren't that clear) specimens in the Black Hills. He is incorrect in his interpretation that those trees (the Black Hills ones) were toppled by some "Unknown mega cataclysm," but I suppose that's a different point.

If there's going to be any Vogon poetry here please post a warning so we delicate flowers can flee.
The whole thing was the result of another one of Baldric's cunning plans.

@52

continuing the BSG hypothesis...

Could've been a stray missed shot from the Gun on Ice Planet Zero finally reaching Earth...

Could've been a stray missed shot from the Gun on Ice Planet Zero finally reaching Earth...

That's possible, but unlikely. It would have required a black hole being involved and bending the shot back toward us, since the axis of Aracta tilts away from our solar system, not toward it, and the gun was situation almost exactly at the north pole. Still, perhaps we can posit this idea as possible additional evidence of black holes...

I had never thought about a "methane burp" as the cause, but I'm wondering, has the possibility been seriously explored? There are known to be significant methane deposits locked under permafrost, and their release is a hypothesized consequence of warming at high latitudes, and the event did occur at the peak of summer. A sudden, massive release of methane coincident with a lightning strike could certainly cause a significant explosion.

I asked my dad (not a climatologist but an expert on arctic ecology and a bit of a dabbler in meteorology) about the methane, with regard to catastrophic releases (not about the T. event, but in general). He did say it was a matter of concern (positive feedback contributing to further warming, as it's a greenhouse gas) but he said that it wouldn't happen catastrophically but gradually. Anybody else know anything about it?

"Creationism with episodes explains better the great events of the planet."

Worst episodes EVER!

"Tovarishch Nevesta Shreka? Google gives zero hits."

Not anymore!

By Longtime Lurker (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

I just heard some info about the Tunguska event via Carl Sagan's program Cosmos -- which originally aired in 1980. (Yeah... I'm a few decades behind the times.)

And now, two days after watching Cosmos, PZ Meyers offers this delectable nugget of updated information from Archy. My craving for more knowledge is (temporarily) satiated.

Nom nom nom.

og #41

Unknown mega cataclysm in South Dakota Black Hills did these trees in. Unknown until recently. A much bigger event than the Tunguska event.

You don't need a "mega cataclysm" to cause a dead tree to fall over. Do you have any evidence and/or references to share on this mega cataclysmic event and the hyper-colossal forest in the Black Hills (besides your photo collection)?

By kryptonic (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

#9 It's not available on amazon and no where else I've looked. Next time I visit the library, I'll check. Was there ever an audio version of it made?

Ok, Og, my mistake. You reference was ambiguous, but I should have been able to figure it out. Please accept my apology, and I withdraw the rudely stated insinuation that you weren't thinking.

Robert Byers #23

This is what happened in the missoula flood case and today stops more accurate readings of geology from seeing all rock creation as sudden events.

Uniformitarianism does not exclude catastrophic events, which have happened throughout geologic time. The "Missoula flood case" actually consisted of many different flood episodes which occurred over thousands of years, but each flood was a catastrophic event. Guess what, the erosional and depositional features formed during the flood events are processes that erode landforms and deposit sediments in floods today.

Science: It works, bitches!

By kryptonic (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Tovarishch Nevesta Shreka is (perhaps unsophisticated) Russian for:

"Comrade Bride-of-Shrek"

Ah! That probably explains why google gave this image as the first hit when I shortened the search to just 'Shreka'.

Warning: Image is probably not safe for work.

By Stagyar zil Doggo (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

Scientific American had an article on Tunguska in last month's issue: "The Tunguska Mystery," July 2008, p.80. The Italian authors organized an expedition and profiled the bottom of lake Chelko at the site. They found evidence of an impact, including a magnetic anomaly and a seismic reflector under the bottom of the lake. They plan to return later in 2008 to drill in the lake.

Great golly Stanislaw! It were the Venusians!

By antaresrichard (not verified) on 01 Jul 2008 #permalink

#68:

#9 It's not available on amazon and no where else I've looked. Next time I visit the library, I'll check. Was there ever an audio version of it made?

Oops. I screwed up the author's name; it's really Bensen. Amazon lists 17 used copies in paperback, and abebooks.com has both paperback and hardcover copies, along with a copy in German translation.

I don't know about an audio version.

By noncarborundum (not verified) on 02 Jul 2008 #permalink

A lot of posters here misunderstood the bigger law of logic on these matters I was presenting.
I was saying that this blast and the missoula and more and present errors all come from the same equation of error that haunts the historical sciences. A presumptious framework dominates the researchers in how they interpretate these matters. So out of school or old they do not actually use creativity and thorough "science" in investigation but find what their teachers said they would find. It takes a few individual tp see beyond their teachers errors and change conclusions.
That was my big equation i was introducing wwhich would be otherwise not be said here.

Formations on earth and of rock have and still are seen as coming from slow events largely. This is a glaring error to simple observation. This error leaves creationists as the ones to make future modern geology.

By Robert Byers (not verified) on 03 Jul 2008 #permalink

That's nice, Robbie. Now run along and play.