How Big Is An 8.8 Earthquake?

How big is an earthquake measuring 8.8? You might have wondered that after the massive earthquake in Chile yesterday.

Some perspective from Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer:

I’ll note that the magnitude scale doesn’t translate perfectly to energy released, but roughly speaking an 8.8 quake releases the energy equivalent of 20 billion tons of TNT, or 400 time the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated (Tsar Bomba, a 50 megaton test done by the USSR in 1961). If the measurement hold up, this will be the fifth or sixth strongest earthquake recorded since 1900. The strongest ever recorded, in 1977 1960, was magnitude 9.5, also in Chile — the one that caused the tsunami in Hilo.

Learn more here from Phil.