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Sikhote-Alin (Siberia, Russia) (IIB), Coarsest Octahedrite (iron) Fell 12th February 1947

This event luckily occurred over a fairly remote part of Siberia, and was the largest witnessed fall of iron meteorites in recorded history, producing a total of 106 craters in the dense Siberian forest! A very famous fall of meteorites, widely reported, commemorated and remembered, although it is sometimes confused with another cataclysmic event which also occurred in Siberia a few years earlier - the Tunguska Blast of 1908 had a force equivalent to 30 million tons of TNT, as opposed to Hiroshima's 20 thousand tons. No impact craters or meteorites were ever found at Tunguska, which was likely caused by an icy comet fragment entering our atmosphere, but leaving no trace of itself other than the blast, which completely devastated 1200 square miles of trees in all directions.

With the later Sikhote-Alin witnessed fall we have much more direct evidence from the numerous meteorites collected at the site, and know that a huge iron meteor encountered our atmosphere at 10:38am on the morning of February 12th 1947 with spectacular results.

If events like these ever occurred over densely populated areas of the World, the damage and loss of life would be catastrophic. Luckily (so far!), there has only been minor damage caused to property from falling meteorites (cf Peekskill), but considering the thousands of "Earth crossing" asteroids already known, and many more quite capable of causing severe damage are also suspected, we could have another angry visitor from space within days, months, years, decades, centuries - never?

These "Individuals" are complete meteorites that broke away from the main bolide when it detonated during atmospheric passage, but which continued to melt due to the friction set up with the atmosphere at such an extremely high speed. Surface regmaglypts (thumbprints), caused by melting and ablation during high speed atmospheric passage, cover the surfaces of these beautifully fusion crusted specimens. In general, the small specimens have the smallest thumbprints, while the larger specimens have the biggest. Some specimens show the direction of travel (orientation), with the leading edge often being smoothed, blunted and devoid of thumbprints. The trailing edge is often beautifully thumb printed in complete contrast to the heavily ablated leading edge.....these can look very spectacular!

Sikhote-Alin meteorites come in two basic types - the ugly and featureless twisted metal, shrapnel versions that exploded on impact (good for use as a door stop!) and the far more beautiful complete individuals that show flight markings. To many people, Sikhote-Alin individuals represent what a true meteorite should look like.


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