Lot Description:
This meteorite is covered with vibrant peaks, folds and is blanketed with scores of regmaglypts (thumbprint-like indentations produced during a meteorite’s blazing plunge through Earth’s upper atmosphere). Patches of fusion crust — another product of frictional heating in the atmosphere — are also in evidence. Wrapped in a platinum-hued patina with charcoal accents and lustrous highlights, tell-tale rivulets where molten material streamed off this meteorite during its descent as well as ablation lipping are seen. Cleavage along angular crystalline planes is evident — a testament to the monumental forces exerted on this meteorite as it punched through Earth’s atmosphere on its way to becoming this distinguished specimen from an extraordinary event — the greatest meteorite shower in modern times.
81 x 114 x 77mm (3.2 x 4.5 x 3 in.)
1.383kg (3 lbs)

Macovich Collection of Meteorites, New York City
Philip C. Mani Collection, San Antonio

A distinguished example from the largest meteorite shower of the last several thousand years and one of the most terrifying meteorite showers of modern times. Its journey began 320 million years ago, when a giant iron mass broke-off from its parent body in the asteroid belt and wandered through interplanetary space until it encountered Earth on February 12, 1947. Upon slamming into the atmosphere at cosmic velocity (~11 miles/second) it began to break apart, producing a fireball brighter than the Sun as it sailed over Siberia’s Sikhote-Alin Mountains. The shockwaves from the low altitude explosion of the main mass collapsed chimneys, shattered windows and uprooted trees. Sonic booms were heard more than 300 kilometers away and a 33-kilometer-long smoke trail persisted in the sky for several hours. The resulting meteorites produced impact craters as large as 26 meters — with nearly 200 craters having been catalogued. A famous painting of the event by artist and eye-witness P. I. Medvedev was reproduced as a postage stamp issued by the Soviet government in 1957 to commemorate what many witnesses thought was the end of the world. There are two types of Sikhote-Alin meteorites: the jagged and twisted specimens that resulted from the low-altitude explosion of the main mass (see lot 34), and the gently scalloped specimens that broke free of the main mass in the upper atmosphere and were sculpted during their plunge to Earth as a result of frictional heating. This is an example of the latter, and it among the most aesthetic softball-sized Sikhote Alin meteorites recovered.

Christie's would like to thank Dr. Alan E. Rubin at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California, Los Angeles for his assistance in preparing this catalog note.
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