Giant MeteoriteWrecked Huge Area of Siberian Forest in 2002
Agence FrancePresse, 25 July 2003
A giant meteoritethat struck the Irkutsk region of Siberia last September had the force of anuclear bomb of medium power and devastated a huge area of taiga, Russianscientists reported Friday.
A 10-strongexpedition of scientists and doctors was unable to identify and reach the placewhere the meteorite landed until mid-May. It was finally located in the veryremote, wooded semi-mountainous region of Bodaibo, northeast of Irkutsk and LakeBaikal.
“Over anarea of 100 square kilometres (40 square miles) trees were smashed in a patterncharacteristic of very powerful blast effects,” expedition leader VadimChernobrov told a news conference.
He said that themeteorite had disintegrated before hitting the ground and had left about 20craters, up to 20 metres (nearly 70 feet) in diameter, with an explosion”equivalent to the power of an atomic bomb of medium size”.
A video made bythe expedition and shown to reporters showed shattered and sometimes burnt treestumps, charred by the high temperatures released by the explosion.
Meteorites arelarge rocks which tumble through space and then get caught in the Earth’sgravity, becoming red-hot with the heat of the atmosphere.
Unlike meteors,which burn up completely as they fall and are occasionally visible in the nightsky as shooting stars, meteorites are rocks which are so big they make it allthe way to the ground.
The brighest suchphenomenon ever recorded during human history also happened over Siberia. In1908 a meteorite hit the Tunguska region, devastating the forest over an area ofsome 2,000 square kilometers (770 square miles).
Many scientistsalso believe that in prehistoric times a massive meteorite that hit what is nowCentral America may have caused the disappearance of the dinosaurs.