Iron meteorite, IIAB. Witnessed fall February 12, 1947, eastern Siberia. Rare uncleaned shrapnel. Weighing 179.0 grams and measuring 55 mm x 55 mm x 26 mm. The vast majority of recovered Sikhote-Alin specimens were cleaned by the finders, their helpers, or family members, as it was believed that the resulting shiny, silvery pieces would carry more appeal on the collectors’ market. However, cleaning will often remove some of the surface features unique to meteorites, such as fusion crust and delicate flowlines. Uncleaned, as-found pieces show an attractive bronze or ocher patina and examination with a loupe or magnifying lens will sometimes reveal intriguing surface details. While individual Sikhote-Alin meteorites display alluring features and appeal to the aesthetically-inclined, shrapnel fragments such as this—found in and around the large number of craters at the fall site—brilliantly illuminate the savage forces inflicted upon incoming meteorites.
It has been rumored in both the film and meteorite worlds that the jagged asteroidal mass seen ominously approaching Earth in the action-packed science fiction blockbuster Armageddon was modelled on the Sikhote-Alin meteorite fall of 1947. And it’s easy to imagine why that might be true. At some time in the distant past and, perhaps as much as 250,000,000 miles from Earth we posit that two asteroids collided. One mass, weighing about 70 tons, drifted through the cold spaces between planets for millions of years, ultimately freezing to minus 454 degrees Fahrenheit.
Two years after the end of the Second World War, on a cold and snowy February evening, the dense mass crashed into the warm atmosphere of planet Earth, at 25,000 m.p.h. or more. The shockwave reportedly knocked over forest workers, as twisted shards of metal rained down among snowy pines. Melted, torn, and blasted, these fragments so resembled the remnants of wartime bombing that they were named shrapnel. Others landed as complete pieces, their surfaces rounded and sculpted by ablation into fantastical shapes, and covered or partially covered with scalloped indentations called regmaglypts or thumbprints. These sculpted pieces, known as individuals, present beautiful natural formations and comprise only about 20% of all recovered masses.
The fall site was studied in detail and Russian academics excavated 180 of 200 identified impact pits and craters. In later years, amateur and professional meteorite hunters scoured the fall site using metal detectors while braving ticks, snakes, Siberian tigers (and, some claim, the Russian mob). But the site, now thoroughly hunted, is exhausted and no new meteorites from this—the world’s largest crater field—are to be found. And the extent of that crater field has often been cited as an example of why we must take steps to protect Earth from future asteroid impacts; had such an impact occurred in a densely-populated area, the effects would have been devastating.
An easy favorite among experienced collectors, Sikhote-Alin is an extremely rare witnessed fall iron and many individuals display the classic characteristics of meteorites: regmaglypts, orientation, rollover lips, and even impact pits from in-flight collisions with other meteorites. These intriguing visitors from space are survivors from the greatest meteorite fall in recorded history. Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Aerolite Meteorites.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.