The Tunguska Explosion of 1908: Discovery of Meteoritic Debris near the Explosion Site and at the South Pole

Science  10 Jun 1983:
Vol. 220, Issue 4602, pp. 1158-1161
DOI: 10.1126/science.220.4602.1158


Submillimeter-sized metallic spheres extracted from soil in the Tunguska region of central Siberia contain noble metals in cosmic proportions. The trace element composition and geographical distribution of these spheres suggest that they are from the 30 June 1908 Tunguska explosion and not meteoritic ablation products falling continuously on the earth. Debris from this explosion was also discovered in a South Pole ice core; this discovery indicates that the Tunguska object exploded in the atmosphere with subsequent stratospheric injection and transport of the debris. The celestial body that exploded over Tunguska weighed more than 7 million tons, was more than 0.16 kilometer in diameter, and may well have been a stony meteorite. This discovery offers a new precision time marker in polar ice strata for the year 1909. The steady-state influx of cosmic matter at the South Pole is estimated to be 1.8 x 10–8 grams per square centimeter per year, which corresponds to a global influx of 4 x l05 tons per year.