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Sikhote-Alin is an iron meteorite that fell in 1947 on the Sikhote-Alin Mountainsmarker in Russiamarker. This fall is among the largest meteorite showers in recent history.


The 10th anniversary stamp.
It reproduces a painting by P.

At around 10:30 am on February 12, 1947, eyewitnesses in the Sikhote-Alin Mountainsmarker, Primoryemarker, Russia, observed a large bolide brighter than the Sun that came out of the north and descended at an angle of about 41 degrees. The bright flash and the deafening sound of the fall were observed for three hundred kilometres around the point of impact not far from Luchegorskmarker and approximately 440 km northeast of Vladivostokmarker. A smoke trail, estimated at 32 km long, remained in the sky for several hours.

As the meteorite — traveling at a speed of about 14 km/s — entered the atmosphere, it began to break apart, and the fragments fell together. At an altitude of about 5.6 km, the largest mass apparently broke up in a violent explosion.

On November 20, 1957 the Soviet Unionmarker issued a stamp for the 10th anniversary of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite shower. It reproduces a painting by P. J. Medvedev, a Russian artist who witnessed the fall: he was sitting in his window starting a sketch when the fireball appeared, so he immediately began drawing what he saw.


Because the meteorite fell during daytime, it was observed by many eyewitnesses. Evaluation of this observational data allowed V. G. Fesenkov, then chairman of the meteorite committee of the USSR Academy of Sciencemarker, to estimate the meteoroid's orbit before it encountered the Earth. This orbit was ellipse-shaped, with its point of greatest distance from the sun situated within the asteroid belt, similar to many other small bodies crossing the orbit of the Earth. Such an orbit was probably created by collisions within the asteroid belt.


Sikhote-Alin is a massive fall. The overall size of the meteoroid has been estimated at just under 900,000 kg.Krinov had estimated the post atmospheric mass of the meteoroid at some 70,000 kg. A more recent estimate by Tsvetkov (and others) puts the mass at around 100,000 kg.

Strewn field

The strewn field for this meteorite covered an elliptical area of about 1.3 km². Some of the fragments made craters, the largest of which was about 26 m across and 6 m deep. Fragments of the meteorite were also driven into the surrounding trees.

Composition and classification

The Sikhote-Alin meteorite is classified as an iron meteorite belonging to the chemical group IIAB and with a coarse octahedrite structure. It is composed of approximately 93% iron, 5.9% nickel, 0.42% cobalt, 0.46% phosphorus, and 0.28% sulfur, with trace amounts of germanium and iridium. Minerals present include taenite, plessite, troilite, chromite, kamacite, and schreibersite.


Specimens of the Sikhote-Alin Meteorite are basically of two types:
  1. individual, thumbprinted or regmaglypted specimens, showing fusion crust and signs of atmospheric ablation
  2. shrapnel or fragmented specimens, sharp edged pieces of torn metal showing evidence of violent fragmentation
The first type probably broke off the main object early in the descent. These pieces are characterized by regmaglypts (cavities resembling thumb prints) in the surface of each specimen. The second type are fragments which were either torn apart during the atmospheric explosions or blasted apart upon impact on the frozen ground. Most were probably the result of the explosion at 5.6 km altitude.

A large specimen is on display in Moscowmarker, many other specimens are held by Russian Academy of Science and a great number of smaller specimens have made their way into the collector's market.

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