The cloudy impact of Sikhote Alin

By Phil Plait | March 24, 2012 7:00 am

As soon as I read the caption of this lovely, if frigid, picture I knew I was going to like it: it’s an Envisat image of clouds forming east of the Russian Sikhote Alin mountains:

Sure, it’s pretty and all, but what’s so special about it?

In 1947, a rain of iron fell on this mountain range. A metallic asteroid the size of a school bus came in from space and exploded over Russia, showering the area with iron fragments. Named for the region, Sikhote Alin meteorites are highly valued: they are from a witnessed event, and are quite lovely. I own several, because I love them. My favorite is shaped like Darth Vader’s head!

A documentary was made about the Sikhote Alin fall, and it’s very cool; I wrote about it a few years back.

Isn’t that awesome? The meteorites those guys pick up so casually are worth thousands of dollars each today.

And in 1947, would those Russians poking through that forest have thought that sometime in the not-too-distant future, we’d routinely get an asteroid’s-eye-view of that very same region?

Image credit: ESA

Comments (6)

  1. Chew

    What a great little documentary. The entire 18 minute version is here: http://www.meteorites.com.au/odds&ends/sikhote-alin.html

  2. nothere

    Can someone explain the squiggly blue line?

  3. Mike W

    Which one? The one going up the middle (southwest to northeast) is the coast, with the sea on the right. It does seem oddly offset with white on the right side to the north–that might be weather, but I bet it’s ice. It gets rather cold up there, and the northern most part is a shallow strait, which I think would make ice formation easier. Despite being unseasonally warm where I am right now (US East Coast), I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still near freezing up there. Note that on the other side of the strait, to the upper right of the picture, you can see Sakhalin Island.

  4. Messier Tidy Upper

    Great little doco there. Cheers! :-)

    The meteorites those guys pick up so casually are worth thousands of dollars each today.

    Hmm … given the lengths they had to go to in order to get there :

    – three days slogging through snow for one trio of geologists,

    – a long meticulous study of eyewitnesses and hacking their way through dense taiga forest by another scientific expedition

    – & rafting in over intersecting Russian rivers then again cutting through taiga for a third expedition sent out to map and study that Sikhote Alin fall;

    I’m not sure I’d say they were picking those meteorites up “casually” exactly! ;-)

    …in 1947, would those Russians poking through that forest have thought that sometime in the not-too-distant future, we’d routinely get an asteroid’s-eye-view of that very same region?

    Again with the lexicographical pedantry, sorry, but an asteroid’s eye view for the average asteroid most of the time would be an awful lot more distant and dotty wouldn’t it? Plus I know many asteroids are potato shaped but do they really have eyes too? ;-)

    Okay, ok, I’ll see myself out ..

  5. Matt B.

    Сихоте Алин. It sounded so familiar, and yet I couldn’t remember what it was or where it was in Russia.

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