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Monday, February 26, 2024
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Top Amazing Fun Facts About Meteorites In 2023

By Sthitee Mohanty, senior writer.

Find out who was once hit by a meteorite and survived!

By I Kid You Not , in Explained Space , at February 27, 2023 Tags: ,

By Sthitee Mohanty, senior writer.

What’s a meteorite?

Facts about Meteors

Quick facts about meteorites

  • A meteorite is a piece of rock, metal, or a collection of dust particles – that falls on the Earth from space.
  • It can be as large as a big rock, or as small as a speck of dust.
  • A meteorite is called by this name only when it makes the journey through space and reaches earth.
  • In space, these are called meteoroids, or “space rocks
  • Most meteors burn up in the atmosphere

Read on to know how and more fun facts about meteorites!

Meteorites are of primarily three types: stony meteorites, iron meteorites, and stony-iron meteorites. They are followed by more subtypes. Just classification is based on observable characteristics of the meteorites.

Iron MeteoritesStony-Iron MeteoritesStony Meteorites
Said to have originated in the cores of large asteroids,
Made of nickel-iron alloy.
 
Made up of:
Silicates, silicon, oxygen. Some metals like – nickel and iron
Mainly consist of rock-forming (silicate) minerals.
They are the most common Some are the most primitive meteorites in the solar system.

Did you know that Ancient Egyptians crafted their iron weapons from meteorites?

Read on to know more fun facts about meteorites!

Why should these meteorites be studied? They tell us more about how the solar system was formed. Research suggests that meteorites originate from rocks left over while planets were being formed.

Differences between a Meteor, a Meteorite, and a Meteoroid

Did you know that meteorites are not shooting stars? They are meteors!

MeteorMeteoroidMeteorite
Small piece of comet/asteroid that leaves behind a streak of light in earth’s atmosphereSmall piece of comet/asteroid that is floating in spaceSmall piece of comet/asteroid that has fallen on Earth’s surface
Enters Earth’s surface, does not survive frictional forceDoes not enter Earth’s surfaceSurvives Earth’s atmosphere and falls on the surface of Earth

Top 20 fun facts about meteorites in 2022

Meteorites

1. Most meteorites are magnetic because they have iron in them. If you find a piece of rock and wonder if it’s a meteorite, try using a magnet to find out.

2. A meteorite “fall” is different from a meteorite “find”. Researchers call it a meteorite fall when they observe it falling and then collect it. A meteorite find is just collected, not observed.

3. Chondrite meteorites (which are stony, non-metallic, meteorites) are the oldest rocks humans have ever touched. They can be 4.5 billion years old – going back to before the time planets were formed and when the solar system was a system of rotating gases!

4. Though mostly fragments of asteroids or comets, meteorites can come from celestial moons and even Mars!

5. The largest meteorite found on Earth is the Hoba Meteorite in Namibia.

Hoba Meteorite in  Namibia
Hoba Meteorite in Namibia

Weighing almost 54,000 kg this huge meteorite has never been moved from where it was found!

6. Some meteorites are even a part of human culture and history.

Image Source: Mike Cassano via Wikimedia Commons

For instance, the Willamette meteorite in the U.S.A. plays a huge role in the identity of the Native American Confederated Tribes Grand Ronde, the successors of the Clackamas Tribe who had initially discovered the meteorite. This iron meteorite is the sixth-largest in the world and the largest ever found in the United States.

7. A meteorite hit a woman and she survived!

Ann Hodges is the only confirmed human being to have been injured by a meteorite. Actually, she was hit by a fragment of the Sylacauga meteorite.

8. Sometimes, the crashing of a meteorite on the Earth’s surface can lead to the formation of a new mineral like reidite!

9. Meteorites can cause great damage to human settlements. A meteorite once exploded mid-air over the Chelyabinsk City of Russia, almost 10 years ago!

10. Some meteorites are controversial too! Scientists suggested that the Allan Hills meteorite carried signs of extra-terrestrial life on it! These claims were later disproved.

11. Do you know what impact craters are?

Impact craters

When large meteorites crash into Earth with tremendous force, they leave behind holes in the ground called impact craters!

12. The largest impact crater on Earth is said to be the Vredefort Crater in Africa (as stated by NASA Earth Observatory). It is believed that the impact was created by an asteroid and that it was 40-kilometer-deep and 100-kilometer-wide. However, this crater is about 2 billion years old and has eroded over time, so the exact size now is tough to tell.

13. Do you know why the Chicxulub Crater in Yucatan, Mexico is famous? It is believed to be the impact crater of the meteorite that contributed to the cause for the extinction of the dinosaurs!

14. Plants named Venus Flytraps are always found in and around areas where meteorites have fallen. That is why some call them extraterrestrial!

Venus Flytraps
Venus Flytraps

Fun Fact – Venus Flytraps are part of what is called carnivore plants – meaning that they eat other living things. This plant actually “eats” flies! It traps a fly and then digests it with its enzymes and absorbs it!

15. South Africa has made the buying and selling of meteorite pieces illegal for private collectors! 

16. Scientists believe that about 44 tonnes of meteorites land on Earth every day! But, not many are recovered, as they fall into the ocean or in remote areas.

meteor showers

Also, most of the material that it’s made up of gets converted into vapour in the Earth’s atmosphere – this bright trail is what’s called shooting stars. It is estimated that almost 99.5 percent of meteors that speed across the sky burn up in our atmosphere and don’t make it to Earth as meteorites

17. The craters on the moon are meteorite impact craters

moon

18. Meteorite Hunters are a thing! There are people who hunt for meteorites full-time – they rush in when they hear of a meteor shower and spend a lot of time and money looking for them!

19. Meteorites can sell for a high price. Some meteorites, like the Allende Meteorite, are said to contain carbon and microscopic diamonds – that many believe have some parts of the exploding sun that existed before our solar system.

20. Naveen Jain, CEO of InfoSpace, has a meteorite collection worth 5 million dollars! It claims to be the most complete meteorite collection in the world.

Where are meteorites found?

meteors

Meteorites are always found on the surface of the Earth. Yet, these rocks were once in space before they came to Earth.

A lot of meteorites are fragments of asteroids. Meteorites of Earth often come from the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter.

So, where do meteorites come from?

Most meteorites come from what’s called the asteroid belt – this is the area between Mars and Jupiter which has a collection of small rocky bodies.

Some meteorites ( less than 1%) come from Mars and the Moon.

Some are chunks of comets trapped by the Earth’s gravitational pull, falling on the Earth as meteorites.

What are asteroids?

Asteroids are rocky/metallic/icy celestial bodies with no atmosphere. They are minor planets found in the inner Solar System.

Where do most meteorites fall?

meteors

A lot of meteorites also fall into the oceans of the Earth.

However, the maximum meteors fall in Antarctica

What’s interesting to know is that sometimes it is too late to collect a meteorite. As meteorites are made from iron and other minerals, they can weather like rocks too. Water, wind, etc break them into smaller and smaller particles till they do not exist. 

This is why meteorites are better preserved in arid, desert regions where there is very little water.

Other planets and Mars…

Did you know that some meteorites come from Mars too? They are also found on other planets.

If Mars collides with another celestial body, it may send some rocky fragments to Earth. Also, NASA’s rover spacecraft Opportunity was the first spacecraft to discover a meteorite on Mars! Even Mercury and Moon have meteorites.

Sometimes meteorites all come from the same asteroid, though a fair amount of testing is required to determine this fact.

In India, the Geological Survey of India has many meteorite specimens.

There are three meteorite impact craters in India: Lonar Crater (actually Lonar Lake) in Maharashtra, Dhalar Crater in Madhya Prades, and Ramgarh Crater in Rajasthan. Dhalar Crater is the oldest and largest crater in India,

Do you know that meteorites are named after the place/geographical feature they are found near?

Who discovered meteorites?

Meteorites have been sighted since ancient times. They feature prominently in the myths of Ancient Egypt.

They were the sources of what was called the “star metal” that ancient Egyptians used for weapon-making. Pharaoh Tutankhamun had a knife made from meteorites! The ancient Egyptians, it is said, believed iron to be something that came from the Gods (as it came from the sky), and iron, thus, became a metal for only the higher strata of society.

The discovery…

Scientists did not believe that meteorites came from space till 1803, even though there are references about meteorites going further back than the Romans.

One day in 1803, in a little town in France rocks started to fall from the sky. It was then that a physicist named Jean Baptiste Biot started to study these rocks. However, he was not the first to have done so.

Before Biot, a scientist named Ernst Chaldni had proposed the existence of meteorites. Credit is often given to the two together for officially discovering meteorites.

First proper documentation of a meteorite

A meteorite was scientifically photographed for the first time in 1959. It was the fall of a special meteorite named the Allende meteorite that led to the serious study of meteorites. The Allende meteorite contained calcium aluminium inclusions, the oldest material in the solar system. This led to a new branch of earth science called cosmo chemistry.

Today, scientists can identify where meteorites come from. Due to previous space missions, they have samples from other celestial bodies they can match with the meteorite samples. 

Meteorites are often found after meteor showers.

What are meteor showers?

Are you familiar with the term shooting stars? What we call shooting stars and wish for happy things, are actually meteor showers.

When meteors fall through the Earth’s atmosphere, the friction produced vaporizes (turns from solid rock to dust) them. All that is left is a fiery trail of light in the night sky.

Meteor showers happen when the Earth passes through the debris trail of a comet. Thus the showers occur at regular intervals.

Name of Meteor ShowerAssociated Comet
Perseids (most visible meteor shower; Aug)Swift-Tuttle Comet
Taurids (Oct-Dec)Enke Comet
Lyrids (April)Thatcher Comet
Orionids (Oct-Nov)Halley’s Comet
Andromedids (Dec)Biela’s Comet

Quick Fact-Summary:

  1. Meteorites are found only on planetary surfaces – Mercury, Earth, or Mars!
  2. Meteor showers always bring meteorites with them.
  3. A meteor, a meteoroid, and a meteorite are all different bodies! Do not confuse them with asteroids either.
  4. All meteorites carry mineral deposits – some familiar ones like iron and even some unfamiliar ones! They even have diamonds, olivine crystals, etc.
  5. Meteorites are of three types: stony, iron, and stony-iron. The majority of meteorite finds are stony meteorites.
  6. Ann Hodges is the first human confirmed to have been hit by a meteorite.

Did you enjoy reading these fun facts about meteorites?


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