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The Sikhote-Alin iron meteorite is the largest observed meteorite fall in modern history.  It rained a shower of fireballs into the thick forest of the Sikhote-alin Mountains in Eastern Siberia of Russia on February 12, 1947 at 10:38 hours. The flaming fireball, as bright as the sun, cast moving shadows in broad daylight as it passed by observers.  It is estimated that over 23000kg fell that morning leaving a smoke trail which could be seen in the sky for hours.   The meteorite impacted the mountains with a huge explosion which was felt over 100 miles away.   It made over 120 craters of varying sizes.  The largest reported crater was 20 feet deep and 85 feet across.  When the main mass exploded, it blasted fragments in every direction. Pieces were even found embedded in nearby trees. 


The old photos below were taken shortly after the fall:

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samap.jpg (106468 bytes) The white "X" marks the approximate location of the Sikhote-alin meteorite fall which is about midway between Vladivostok and Khabarovsk.


Artist P.I. Medvedev who was sitting at his window in the town of Iman and witnessed the fall recorded this event.  His painting was reproduced as a Russian postage stamp to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the event in 1957. DSCF0015.jpg (51158 bytes)


There are two types of Sikhote-Alin meteorites: sharp, jagged shrapnel type specimens and the more beautiful individuals covered in regmaglypts. These magnificent thumbprinted specimens display a beautiful steel-blue fusion crust.   The appearance of Sikhote-Alin individuals is typical of what the general public believes a meteorite should look like.


sainfoshrap.jpg (37099 bytes) This is an example of a "shrapnel" or fragment type of Sikhote-alin.  They are the result of violent explosions that occurred as the fireball came through the atmosphere.  These specimens were too close to impact to have time to benefit from atmospheric heating.  This specimen weighs 568 grams.


sainforegmag.jpg (56717 bytes) This is an example of what has become known as an individual.  Due to atmospheric heating and ablation these specimens developed regmaglypts or what is commonly called "thumbprints".  This specimen weighs 545 grams.


Sikhote-alin is classified as a coarse iron octahedrite type IIB. It displays a beautiful pattern of Widmanstatten lines when sliced and etched. It is the amount of nickel relative to the amount of iron present that creates this crystalline pattern. This pattern is only present in etched meteorites and is one way of determining the authenticity of a suspected meteorite find.  This specimen weighs 155 grams.

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Some of the small individuals have a smooth appearance and did not form regmaglypts from the atmospheric heating and ablation.  These two individuals weigh 14 and 13 grams respectively.


The rarest type of Sikhote-alin individual is the oriented specimen.   Meteorites that remain in a stable position during their atmospheric entry take on characteristics which are unique to this process. The major characteristics are flow lines in the fusion crust, a flowing appearance of the metal itself on the leading edge, well defined oval regmaglypts or completely smooth on the back and a well defined roll-over rim along the edge of the back where the metal and fusion crust flowed onto the back edge as it melted away.  Specimens can have one or all of these features and be termed as oriented or flight marked.  This specimen shows all the characteristics of orientation and weights 1937 grams.

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This is an exquisite example of a highly oriented Sikhote-alin Meteorite.  It literally looks "frozen in time" as it streaked through the atmosphere, burning metal flying off its tail.  This rare example weighs 475 grams.

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The fiery descent through the atmosphere cause a few Sikhote-alin to take on wild shapes.  This example is an 82 gram specimen that looks uncannily like a tree trunk.

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This is a beautiful collector's display of various shapes and sizes of Sikhote-alin.  The appearance of the Sikhote-alin meteorite is more varied than any other meteorite fall.   This is quite evident when looking at this collection.

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Meteorites are still being recovered in the Sikhote-alin mountains of Eastern Siberia.  However, recovery is very difficult in this unforgiving environment.  It is illegal to remove specimens without permission from the Russian government and the thick forest is home to Siberian tigers and brown bears.




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