The sky is a beautiful, and sometimes scary place. But have you ever seen the light streak across the dark expanse of space? It’s called a meteorite! When these fragments from our solar system enter Earth’s atmosphere they burn up with incredible brightness to produce what astronomers call “shooting stars.” These falling stars are so spectacular because nothing in this world can compare. It has to be extraterrestrial material for such bright colors and fast speeds.
Facts About Meteorites
- A meteoroid is a chunk of space rock and it’s traveling through the cosmos.
- Every day, millions of meteoroids fly through the Earth’s atmosphere.
- When a meteoroid hits the atmosphere of Earth, it can be traveling as fast as 130,000 mph.
- According to a study, meteorites are usually one of three types: stony, iron or stone-iron.
- The sound waves that were caused by the shockwaves of the Chelyabinsk meteor in Russia reached across oceans to sensors on other continents.
- It is illegal to buy and sell meteorite pieces in South Africa.
- When a meteorite falls, it is instantly detected. When one has been found after the fact, they are then referred to as “finds.”
- Asteroids are typically classified as meteoroid up to 10 meters in diameter and then they become asteroids.
- Scientists are only able to study five or six of the 500 meteorites that fall on Earth each year.
- A meteorite will strike a human once every 180 years according to a study by Nature done in 1985.
What is a Meteorite?
You may not think about it often, but Earth is constantly being bombarded with space material! Every day we’re hit by millions of tons. Most of the objects vaporize in our atmosphere, and some people might be surprised to know that only a few really make it all the way down here on earth. But thankfully these larger pieces are usually just pebbles or small rocks nothing too big like boulders!
Asteroids, according to NASA scientists, are made of various types of rock and have existed since the origin of the solar system. Many objects come from these asteroids such as meteorites or space dust which travel through outer space sometimes getting very close to Earth’s atmosphere but never making it into our planet’s surface without burning up in its heat.
As a meteoroid travels through our atmosphere, it is heated by the friction of entering Earth. This causes them to glow and if they happen at night we can see a long streak of light called a Meteor!
After a meteoroid becomes too heavy to stay in orbit, it will plummet towards Earth and become known as a meteorite. Many of these fall into the ocean since about 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. While others are found on land where they await discovery from lucky passers-by who happen across one.
It’s not uncommon to see a few meteorites per hour on a clear night, and during the peak of such an event, you might see as many as 100 shooting stars every hour.
The pieces of the meteor that make it to Earth’s surface are usually small and often vaporized by our atmosphere, but sometimes larger particles manage to slip through.
Asteroids are pretty incredible because they can be found in an infinite number of colors, shapes, and sizes. The majority of these objects come from asteroids with a few being specifically attributed to the asteroid 4 Vesta. Some may come from comets while there are also meteorites that originate on Earth’s moon (Luna) or Mars (Martian).
Types of Meteorites
Meteorites are chunks of asteroids that fall to Earth and scientists classify the objects based on their chemical makeup, specific chemicals found in them, isotopic composition which is made up of certain types of each element.
Meteorites are classified by their type, such as:
Stony – A rock that is made of a material.
Metallic – If it contains iron.
Mixture – A steel-like alloy with a mixture of iron and stones.
The meteorites of the world are so diverse that they can be divided into specific categories. For example, pallasite meteorites are a type of stony-iron found mostly in nickel and iron with some olivine crystals mixed in for good measure something you’d find on Earth too!
Here are some of the most famous meteorites in history:
The Hoba Meteorite – The largest meteorite on the planet is a whopping 60 tons and can be found in Namibia, Africa. It struck down over 80,000 years ago but was discovered only in 1920. With thousands of visitors yearly it has been made an official National Monument which you should not miss!
The Willamette Meteorite – Willamette Meteorite is the largest meteorite ever found in America and stands 10 ft tall. It was discovered 1,000 years ago by Westerners. Although it had been revered for centuries as a healing source before then by Native Americans who called it Tomanowos. The 15-ton iron rock landed on earth around that time frame after being destroyed billions of years prior. During an ancient collision with another planet which scientists believe to have created our current moon!
The Sylacauga/Hodges Meteorite – Ann Hodges was napping on her sofa in 1954 when an 8.5lb meteor smashed through the window. Struck her hip, bruising it but not harming her in any other way by this rare space rock. Neighbors described as ‘a fireball shooting through the sky’.
The Allende Meteorite – Is an example of a carbonaceous chondrite. It’s one of the most studied meteors, dating back to 4.6 billion years ago when our sun and planets formed! The fragments were originally about the size of the car before they broke into pieces weighing several tons in total that’s why it has been so widely researched over the course of time.
The Fukang Meteorite – Is a prime example of the rare and coveted Pallasites. Its stunning gem-like olivine crystals make it sought after by collectors around the world!