Weather in Space

Meteors, Meteorites, Asteroids, and Comets

What is the largest known meteor to disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere in recent times?

On the night of June 30, 1908, villagers near the Tunguska River in Siberia witnessed a fireball streaking through the sky, a burst of light, a thunderous sound, and an enormous blast. A thousand miles away, in Irkutsk, Russia, a seismograph recorded what appeared to be a distant earthquake. This area was so remote, however, that a scientific expedition to the site did not happen until 1927. Incredibly, they found more than 1,000 square miles of burned and flattened forest.

Modern scientific computations have shown that this incredible explosion was probably caused by a small, rocky asteroid or comet about 100 feet (30 meters) across. Computer simulations show that it most likely came into Earth’s atmosphere at a shallow angle and exploded in mid-air above the forest. The explosion packed a punch easily greater than 1,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs.


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