Meteorological paintings of the Tunguska Event

Candace Kohl, a well-known meteorite hunter and asteroid specialist with an asteroid named after her, gave me a tour of her home and her collection of meteorites this weekend. I had a blast checking out all the different rocks from space, the moon and Mars, but these paintings on one wall were my favorite part of her collection.

Each of the four paintings shows a different interpretation of the Tunguska Event as described by eye witnesses. These were painted by Bill Hartmann, who also developed the most accepted working theory for the formation of the moon. The Tunguska Event is largely a mystery: in 1908 a huge explosion in the sky above Russia flattened and burned over 800 square miles of forest, but left no other traces behind. I thought it was pretty cool that the man solving the mystery of the moon's creation was also inspired enough by this mystery to paint it.


  1. *sigh* – the mystery here has so long been solved… and I wish media wouldn’t keep reporting this as some big scary puzzle that scientists still haven’t solved.  Really, it’s solved.  It was a few dozen meter diameter asteroid that exploded 6-10 miles off the ground.  This is backed up by fragments of meteorite found in the blast area, and the eye witnesses showing the re-entry track before the explosion.   These are even shown in the paintings above.  

    It’s not a mystery.  It’s an asteroid.  Can we move on please?

    1. What do you mean? Are we to conclude there was no mystery simply because there has been research done and plausible or even proven explanations exist? What would the popsci channels and magazines do all day if we actually corrected misconceptions!?
      You can’t prove it didn’t happen in a completely preposterous manner that is indistinguishable from it not happening that way!! 

  2. Of course it was an asteroid.  Prof. Moriarity laid a set of clues which posthumously lured Sherlock Holmes to the Tunguska region on the day of the impact in a failsafe assassination attempt.  The Prof had previous calculated the impact zone and date based on his classic paper “The Dynamics of an Asteroid”.

  3. This got me to wondering: if the asteroid had been a few hours earlier or later, what could it have hit?
    While most of the planet at around 60° is wilderness (Russia and northern Canada) or ocean, Oslo, Stockholm, Saint Petersburg and Anchorage are all within a degree or so of the impact site.
    How would world history have been different if a major city had been wiped off the map in 1908? would the outcome of WWI or the Russian revolution have been different if they had been dealing with the destruction of St Petersburg just a few years previously?

  4. According to Wikipedia, there’s ongoing controversy over whether it was an asteroid or a comet. Apparently, nickel and iron anomalies in the soil and in tree resin suggest an asteroid, or perhaps a cometary nucleus, while the air-burst explosion and atmospheric effects suggest a comet.

Comments are closed.