In 1947, on the 17th day of February, the newspaper Evening Moscow (Vechernaya Moskva) printed the following news item:
On February 12, residents of the taiga’s Krasnoarmeysky Raion witnessed an extremely rare incident. At 10 in the morning a gigantic, flaming meteorite streaked across the sky, heading at terrific speed toward the foothills of the Sikhote-Alin Mountain Range. The meteorite’s impact was accompanied by a thunderous sound, which caused a quaking of the air that shattered windows in many buildings and burst pipes, while the winds swayed trees like in a strong storm. In several places huge oaks and cedars were torn up by their roots. As the meteorite descended, a thick, reddish-brown tail of smoke trailed behind it and remained in the sky for a long time. Explosions were heard. So far the location of the meteorite’s impact has not been found. Brigades of Nanai and Udegey hunters have set out in search of it. And a brigade of scientific workers from the Far East Base of the USSR Academy of Sciences and from the Primorye Affiliate of the USSR Geographic Society has set off from Vladivostok.
As it was later explained, one of the largest meteorites ever to impact Earth (and what would be the largest in the twentieth century) had struck Primorye. It was given the name the Sikhote-Alin Meteorite.
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Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Stalker is loosely based on this famous science fiction novel, in which there are certain zones briefly visited by extraterrestrials who have left behind artifacts with strange powers and altered zones where odd and sometimes dangerous phenomena occur.
Chunks of cosmic debris are called meteoroids while in outer space, meteors while passing through the atmosphere, and meteorites once they hit Earth’s surface. It is estimated that the Sikhote-Alin meteoroid was approximately 100,000 kg (220,000 lb), while its post-atmospheric mass as a meteorite was some 23,000 kg (51,000 lb).
The meteor’s bright flash and the deafening sound of the fall were reportedly observed from as far as 400 kilometers away. The smoke trail was estimated at 32 km (20 mi) long.
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