Sikhote-Alin meteorite

An iron meteorite fell on the Sikhote-Alin Mountains, in southeastern Russia, in 1947. Large iron meteorite falls have been witnessed and fragments recovered but never before, in recorded history, a fall of this magnitude.[2] An estimated 23 tonnes[1] of fragments survived the fiery passage through the atmosphere and reached the Earth.

Thumbprinted Sikhote-Alin sample
Structural classificationOctahedrite, coarsest
Composition93% Fe, 5.9% Ni, 0.42% Co, 0.46% P, 0.28% S
RegionSikhote-Alin Mountains, Primorsky Krai, Far Eastern Federal District
Coordinates46°09′36″N 134°39′12″E / 46.16000°N 134.65333°E / 46.16000; 134.65333Coordinates: 46°09′36″N 134°39′12″E / 46.16000°N 134.65333°E / 46.16000; 134.65333[1]
Observed fallYes
Fall dateFebruary 12, 1947
TKW>23 tonnes (25 short tons)[1]
Strewn fieldYes
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The 10th anniversary stamp. It reproduces a painting by P. J. Medvedev.

At around 10:30 AM on 12 February 1947, eyewitnesses in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains, Primorye, Soviet Union, 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 300 kilometres (190 mi) around the point of impact not far from Luchegorsk and approximately 440 km (270 mi) northeast of Vladivostok. A smoke trail, estimated at 32 km (20 mi) long, remained in the sky for several hours.

As the meteor, traveling at a speed of about 14 km/s (8.7 mi/s), entered the atmosphere, it began to break apart, and the fragments fell together, some burying themselves 6 metres (20 ft) deep.[3] At an altitude of about 5.6 km (3.5 mi), the largest mass apparently broke up in a violent explosion called an air burst.

On November 20, 1957[4] the Soviet Union issued a stamp for the 10th anniversary of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite shower. It reproduces a painting by P. I. Medvedev, a Soviet 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.[5]


Because the meteor 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 Science, 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.[6] Such an orbit was probably created by collisions within the asteroid belt.


Sikhote-Alin is a massive fall with the pre-atmospheric mass of the meteoroid estimated at approximately 90,000 kg (200,000 lb).[7] A more recent estimate by Tsvetkov (and others) puts the mass at around 100,000 kg (220,000 lb).[8]

Krinov estimated the post-atmospheric mass of the meteoroid at some 23,000 kg (51,000 lb).

Strewn field and cratersEdit

The strewn field for this meteorite covered an elliptical area of about 1.3 km2 (0.50 sq mi). Some of the fragments made impact craters, the largest of which was about 26 m (85 ft) across and 6 m (20 ft) deep.[9] Fragments of the meteorite were also driven into the surrounding trees, embedding themselves.

Composition and classificationEdit


The Sikhote-Alin meteorite is classified as an iron meteorite belonging to the meteorite 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.[10]


Specimens of the Sikhote-Alin Meteorite are basically of two types:[8]

  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 (3.5 mi) altitude.

A large specimen is on display in Moscow. Many other specimens are held by Russian Academy of Science and many smaller specimens exist in the collectors' market.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Meteoritical Bulletin Database: Sikhote-Alin. Archived from the original on 2012-01-30.
  2. ^ Norton, O. Richard (1998). Rocks From Space. Missoula, Montana: Mountain Press. p. 103. ISBN 0878423028.
  3. ^ "Sikhote-Alin Meteorite". Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  4. ^ Burns, Philip R. "Pib". "Meteorite Stamps and Coins". Archived from the original on 2000-01-21.
  5. ^ "Sikhote Alin". Planetarium de Montreal. Archived from the original on 2006-05-21.
  6. ^ "Witnesses and orbit". Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  7. ^ Norton, O. Richard; Chitwood, Lawrence A. (2008). Field Guide to Meteors and Meteorites. London: Springer-Verlag. p. 47. ISBN 9781848001572.
  8. ^ a b Gallant, Roy (February 1996). "Sikhote-Alin Revisited". Meteorite Magazine. Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences, University of Arkansas. 2: 8. Bibcode:1996Met.....2....8G. Archived from the original on 2010-06-12.
  9. ^ "Sikhote-Alin". Earth Impact Database. Planetary and Space Science Centre University of New Brunswick Fredericton. Retrieved 2009-08-19.[dead link]
  10. ^ Buchwald, Vagn F. (1975). HANDBOOK OF IRON METEORITES Their History, Distribution, Composition and Structure. University of California Press. pp. Vol 3, Pages 1123–1130. Group lIB. 5.90% Ni, 0.42% Co, 0.46% P, 0.28% S, 52 ppm Ga, 161 ppm Ge , 0.03 ppm Jr.

External linksEdit