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Tunguska puzzle, the biggest explosion in history

Does the Tunguska event mean anything to you? This explosion, which occurred in 1908 in the heart of Siberia, 5,000 km from Moscow, was a thousand times more powerful than the explosion of Hiroshima. But this destruction of more than 2,000 square kilometers of forest (20 times the size of Paris) remains an unsolved scientific mystery in the Sixth Science book, science podcast Science and the future And the 20 minutestells you in detail.

More or less credible hypotheses to explain the explosion in Tunguska

About the microphone, Estelle Liveris, private correspondent for Science and the future At the same site of the explosion, he answers questions from Romain Gouloumès from 20 minutes. It is clear that since 1908, many hypotheses have tried to explain this phenomenon, from the most credible to the most bizarre: comets, geophysical phenomena, lightning balls, nuclear tests … the list is long.

The latest proposal explained so far was developed by Sergei Karpov, a researcher at Siberian Federal University in Krasnoyarsk whom Estelle Liveris met with. This scientist and his team published in 2020 in the magazine Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS) work indicates that the origin of the Tunguska event will be due to the crossing of the atmosphere of an iron asteroid, without colliding with Earth.

How do we explain the massive shock wave that toppled millions of trees?

According to this researcher, supported by mathematical models, this hypothesis explains the absence of debris and craters in the area, and the destruction of the forest by the shock wave. But the question remains about size. Because how do you explain the huge shock wave in the shape of a butterfly laid down millions of trees?, asks Estelle Liveris after the skepticism swirling in the scientific community.

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Indeed, some specialists, such as Ludovic Ferrier, geologist and curator of the meteorite collection and archaeological collection of the Natural History Museum in Vienna, point out the fact that work on the shock wave is exactly what Sergei Karpov lacks. Research. “We need to calculate the aerodynamic effect and explain the shape of the shock wave,” It recognizes the researcher who continues to admit that the task will be difficult.

While waiting for his calculations to end, you can find the whole topic in the February 2022 issue of Science et Avenir-La Recherche (and at Science and the future), immerse yourself in the archives of Sixth Science, or even subscribe for free to the podcast on the platform Apple Podcast.