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The Sikhote-Alin meteorite is a famous witnessed fall that landed in Russia on the evening of February 12, 1947. That night, a 70-ton mass blasted through Earth’s warm atmosphere at speeds of 25,000 mph or more. During its flight, experts estimate the surface of the Sikhote-Alin meteorite reached at least 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
As the mass hurtled closer to our planet’s crust, the pressure of ever-denser air forced it to shear and fracture along its crystalline planes, causing a monumental aerial explosion that was heard by human observers on the ground. The shockwave reportedly knocked over forest workers as twisted shards of metal rained down among snowy pines.
Sikhote-Alin meteorites fall into two categories: shrapnel fragments, which are melted, torn, and blasted, resembling the remnants of wartime bombs. Others are 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.