Presented at the International Conference "90-th Anniversary of the Tunguska Event", Krasnoyarsk, 30 June-2 July 1998


M. Di Martino, Turin Astronomical Observatory,
I-10025 Pino Torinese (TO), Italy.
G. Longo, INFN and University Physics Department,
via Irnerio 46, I-40126 Bologna, Italy.

    The Physics Department of the Bologna University, together with researchers of the CNR Institute of Marine Geology (Bologna) and of the Turin Astronomical observatory, is organising a two week scientific expedition to Tunguska (Central Siberia). Local support will be provided by personnel and researchers of  Tomsk University (Russia), leaded by the Academician N.V. Vasilyev and by Prof. G.V. Andreev. About 25 persons will participate to the expedition planned for the second half of July 1999. The more representative events of the expedition will be filmed, in order to realise a movie to be distributed to the main TV networks in the world. This will make it possible to obtain free from private firms almost all the necessary devices and apparatus.

    The expedition will carry out a systematic exploration around the site (101° 53' 40'' E; 60° 53' 09'' N) of the so-called Tunguska event. The main goal is to assess the real nature of the body that on June 30, 1908 devastated about 2,000 km² of Siberian taiga felling more than 60 million of trees. Following the eyewitness's testimony, a cosmic fireball sailed over about 1000 km of Siberian territory leaving a trail of light some 800 km long. Subsequent researches showed that the Tunguska bolide exploded at an altitude of about 8 km emitting an energy equivalent to 10-50 Megatons of TNT. No macroscopic remnants of the body, neither the typical signature of an impact, like a crater, have been found by the expeditions that previously visited the region. Nevertheless, it is the most devastating cosmic body known to strike Earth in historic times.

    On July 1996, in Bologna, an international conference, attended by about 100 scientists (astronomers, physicists, chemists, biologists, geologists, etc.), discussed the various aspects of the event (see abstracts). Many questions are still open and an well-organised expedition with precise tasks will help to give an answer about the nature and composition of the Tunguska Cosmic Body. This will be a valuable contribution to the international programs on the detection and physical study of asteroids and comets potentially dangerous to humankind.

    The fundamental tasks of the "Tunguska99" expedition are:

1. the study of Ceko lacustrine sediments,
2. magnetometric measurements, and radar and photographic  observations,
3. the search for cosmic body fragments, fallen before the explosion, and of tree samples,
4. cosmic-ray measurements during the flight Bologna-Tunguska-Bologna and in Tunguska.

     1. Microparticles coming from the disintegration of the cosmic body could have been collected and preserved in different natural environments, as swamps, tree resin and lacustrine sediments. The particles from the swamps have been accurately studied by Russian expeditions since the sixties. The search for microparticles in tree resin (as done by the first Italian expedition organised by the University of Bologna in 1991) made it possible to surely date the particles on the basis of tree rings. The lacustrine sediments, to be studied by "Tunguska99" expedition, have probably the same advantage. The lake Ceko, 8 km away from the 1908 explosion "epicentre", about 500 m wide, and 47 m deep, has been chosen to search for sedimentary microparticles. The lake topography will be obtained by a satellite system (GPS) and a bathymetric profile net will be constructed with a digital ecograph. By using a "sub bottom penetration system", a stratigraphic map of the bottom will be obtained to choose the necessary instruments and the sites where the samples will be collected. At the same time, a "side scan sonar" will take ultrasound photographs of the lake bottom. Then, an accurate inspection of the lake bottom will be carried out by a remotely controlled underwater telecamera. Undisturbed samples will be collected by using a "box corer" and a sampling will be performed by using a gravity corer. The lake bottom inspection will be carried out by using the devices supplied by "Geological Assistance & Services" and by "Communication Technology". The search for microparticles in the collected core samples, the morphologic, chemical and isotopic analyses will be carried out in the Bologna and Turin laboratories.

    2. A topographic survey of the area will be performed using a GPS system in order to re-examine the aerophotographic material, obtained in 1938 under the direction of L.A. Kulik. The comparison between the 1938 pictures and the new survey should give further information on the direction of the trees felled by the explosion. Moreover, this comparison will make it possible to evaluate the changes of the environmental conditions and will provide a contribution to the research program of the "Tunguska Natural Reserve". The presence of magnetic anomalies that previous ground investigations have attributed to the collisional event will also be verified.

    3. Some theories presented in 1996 at the Bologna conference on Tunguska presume that, before the explosion of the cosmic body, some macroscopic fragments fell in the south-east area with respect to the epicentre. Supposing that the cosmic body was chondritic, thus containing a high percentage of iron-nickel, the separation of fragments from ground rocks can be performed using neodymium magnets mounted on a special device together with a metal detector (Hall effect probe). This perfectly working system has been tested with good results during two expeditions in the western Egyptian desert and is available at the Physics Department of the Bologna University. Moreover, more samples of the trees surviving the explosion will be collected, in order to further the investigation carried out by the first Italian expedition.

    4. The proposed expedition will also make it possible to measure cosmic rays with the high efficiency radiation detectors, already used by the Bologna group in Italy, Antarctica, Arctica, Everest valley (5000 m) and along the entire sea trip Ravenna-Antarctica-Ravenna. These detectors will be used to monitor cosmic rays, both during the flight Bologna-Tunguska-Bologna and during the two-week stay in the Tunguska Natural Reserve. Gamma rays from cosmic radiation will be continuously recorded on time scale of one minute and in the 0.05-3 Mev, 3-5 Mev and 5-20 Mev energy bands. The comparison between previous measurements and those in flight and on the ground will allow the study of cosmic ray variations with altitude, longitude, pressure, temperature, humidity, and solar activity.

                    Further information on the expedition will be given at this Web site.


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