If you’re wondering what exactly a meteorite is, then you’re in the right place. Many people get confused about a meteorite, and wonder what exactly the difference is between a meteorite and other similar objects, like comets or asteroids. On the surface, they might look quite similar to one another, and it can be easy to mistake them. But the reality is that there is a difference between a meteorite and other objects in our solar system. Let’s look at some facts about meteorites.
- A meteorite is simply a meteoroid that has made it through to the Earth’s surface. Many meteoroids don’t, as they eventually burn up.
- By studying the remains of the meteoroid, we can discover more about its journey to Earth.
- For example, we know from studying a meteoroid that the fastest one to ever reach Earth was going at a speed of more than 64,000mph.
- Collecting meteorites is actually a very popular hobby in some countries. Some collectors will pay good money for the right meteorite.
- However, in some countries this hobby is illegal – Algeria is an example of a country where it is illegal to trade and sell meteorites.
- If a meteorite is smaller than 2mm, we call it a micrometeorite.
- However, at the other end of the spectrum, if a meteorite is larger than 100m in diameter, then we classify it as an asteroid.
- It’s estimated that there are around 500 or so meteorites that make it to Earth each year. However, less than 2-3% of these meteorites are recovered.
- To date, there have been more than 40,000 meteorites found worldwide.
- In 1954, Alabama woman Ann Hodges was actually hit by a meteorite. She became the first woman to be recorded officially as being hit by a meteorite.
Types of Night Sky Objects
There are many different names for the objects in our night sky which help us identify them from each other. However, meteorites, meteors and meteoroids are all the same object, just in different periods of time.
Even a fireball is just a name for a super bright meteor, so it’s also the same object. When there are a group of meteors, we call this a meteor shower. Although you may think of a meteorite being quite small once it’s made its way to Earth, they can be huge. An example of a crater caused by one is Wolfe Creek impact crater, which can be found in Western Australia.
To make an impact of this size, we think that the meteorite that landed here was around 15 meters in diameter, and could have weighed up to 20,000 tonnes.
Common Questions about Meteorites
How do you identify a meteorite?
To the untrained eye, it can be very difficult to identify a meteorite. However, for experts there are telltale signs that help to identify a meteorite from another rock. Meteorites don’t contain quartz, which is the most common mineral in Earth rocks. One way to identify a meteorite is by using the magnet test, as meteorites generally contain a lot of iron and nickel.
How rare are meteorites?
The likelihood of you finding a meteorite is quite rare – only 500 or so make it to the Earth each year. However, many of these go undiscovered, so there is likely to be a fair amount if meteorites still out there! Meteorites are rarer than many other precious materials out there, like gold or diamonds.
How much can meteorites be worth?
In some circumstances, meteorites can be worth as much as $1000 per gram. No wonder finding meteorites is a popular hobby in some countries!
What is the largest meteorite in the US?
The largest meteorite that we’ve ever found on Earth is the well known Willamette meteorite. This meteorite was founded more than 100 years ago, and is more than 15 tons in weight!
Are meteorites dangerous?
No, meteorites are not dangerous to us! However, there are strict precautions put in place when handling a meteorite, however this is for it’s benefit more than ours. We don’t want to contaminate the meteorite with any of our terrestrial makeup.
In conclusion, a meteorite is just a meteorite later down the line of it’s lifespan. They are rarer than many other precious metals and gems, and they can be worth more too to the right buyer. Meteorite discoveries have been recorded by scientists for hundreds of years, and will be for many more into the future.