Facts About Meteors and Meteorites

In space there are a great many small pieces of rock and metal, these small objects are called meteoroids. When these meteoroids hit a planet’s atmosphere they become meteors (or sometimes called shooting stars). Often the smaller meteors will simply vaporise when they hit the Earth’s atmosphere but if they are large enough they can actually continue the journey all the way to the surface of the planet. If the meteors survive the trip through the atmosphere and hit the surface of the planet, they are then defined as meteorites.

Read on for more interesting meteor and meteorite facts.

When a meteor hits the Earth’s atmosphere you will often be able to see a bright glow with a trail. This is caused by the friction of the air.

It is estimated that 1,000 to 10,000 tons of meteors hit the Earth’s atmosphere on a daily basis. Most of these are very small ad will burn up before hitting the surface of the Earth or even showing up in the sky as a shooting star.

Most meteorites that have been studied have come from within our solar system. Some are similar in composition to the Earth or our Moon and some are believed to be pieces of comets.

On a clear night it is sometimes possible to see a shooting star (meteor) but there are events called meteor showers where there are large numbers of shooting stars in the night sky within a very short time period. Usually meteors are most common after midnight, during the autumn and winter season and particularly the Perseids which peaks at around 12th August each year.

The Hoba meteorite is the largest to have been found. It was 54,000 kg of mostly iron and was found in southwest Africa.

When a meteor is tracked from the sky until impact it is called a “fall” and there are 1,086 documented cases of meteorites being received from falls. Meteorites that have been found by any other means on the surface of the Earth are called “finds” and there are 38,660 documented meteorite finds.

There are three main types of meteorites that have been recovered are; stone, iron and stone plus iron.

Bonus fun fact

There are 16 meteorites that have been found in Antarctica that we believe came from Mars. We believe this because the gases found in the meteorites match the Martian atmosphere as measured by the spacecraft Viking which landed on Mars in the 1970’s.

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