Similar to lots 1 and 57, this is a fine example from what was until recently the largest meteorite shower of the last several thousand years. 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 February 12, 1947. Upon slamming into Earth’s atmosphere at cosmic velocity (~11 miles/second) it began to break apart 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 hours. The resulting meteorites produced impact craters with nearly 200 such craters having been catalogued. A painting of the event by an eye-witness 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 shrapnel-like specimens that resulted from the low-altitude explosion of the main mass (see lot 27), and the gently scalloped specimens that broke free of the in the upper atmosphere and were sculpted by the forces of frictional heating during their plunge to Earth. This is a select example of the latter.

Covered with regmaglypts, the convex face features tell-tale rivulets and ablation lipping where molten material streamed off this meteorite during its fiery descent earthward. Cleavage along angular crystalline planes is evident on the reverse where animated contours dramatically jag every which way — the result of ripping apart in the mesosphere and then being smoothed and rounded in the course of frictional heating. From one of the more frightening natural events of modern times, the monumental forces exerted on this meteorite as it punched through Earth’s atmosphere are manifest.

Christie's would like to thank Dr. Alan E. Rubin at the Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles for his assistance in preparing this catalogue.

73 x 57 x 39mm (3 x 2.25 x 1.5 in.) and 304.5g (0.66 lbs)
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