Quite often when we get the time to observe the night sky, we can see something that resembles a bright streak of light falling from the sky – they are the so-called shooting stars. However, real stars do not fall. Even if they did fall and hit the earth, there would be an apocalypse on earth! These so-called “falling stars” that we see in the sky are the meteoroids. Let’s learn some more interesting facts about meteoroids.
Meteors, meteorites and meteoroids.
Meteoroids are very small bodies. When they enter the atmosphere of earth, they dust and rock particles on them burn due to air friction. They become very hot and bright. Most of the times, they burn completely and disappear before they can even come anywhere close to the surface of the earth.
But when the meteoroids do not wear out completely and fall on the earth’s surface, they are called the Meteorites.
Whereas “Meteor” is a general name given to a rocky, solid or metallic body existing in the outer space.
These objects are only called as “Meteoroids” when they enter the atmosphere of the earth. When in space, they are just called Space Debris.
Meteoroids can be classified into 3 types:
- Stone meteoroids – which are essentially rocks made of silica.
- Iron meteoroids – which are made of iron.
- Stone Iron meteoroids – which are made of iron and silica.
What are meteoroids made of?
Meteoroids are generally detached materials from another astronomical body like an asteroid, comet, planet, or a moon. One might even refer to them as “smaller asteroids”.
Meteoroids are composed of metals like iron, magnesium and, silicon. Iron compounds make up to 90% of meteorites.
Various types of meteoroids
The size of meteors can vary a lot. They can be as small as a pin or measure up to a few kilometers. The small pin-sized meteoroids are also called “micrometeorites” or “space-dust”.
Meteoroids can also be detached rocks from the moon and can make their way towards the earth. These meteoroids are known as Lunar Meteoroids. However, since, most of them completely burn or evaporate, they can preferably be called “Lunar Meteorites.”
A type of meteor known as “chondrite” are the most ancient meteors and did not transform with time. They are used by scientists to learn about the history of space.
Meteor showers are a spectacular astronomical event in which one can see many blazing streaks of light falling from the sky. This happens when there are many small sized meteoroids are falling from the sky. These are caused when a comet is passing by the earth and the earth’s gravitational pull attracts some of the dust/ rocks towards itself. The dusty leftovers of comets burn on their way down to the earth’s surface and give what we call as “Meteor Showers”.
Major meteor showers occur around August 12 each year. These are called “Perseids”.
Another famous meteor shower occurs November 17 and is called the “Leonid” Meteor Shower.
More Information on Meteoroids
Meteoroids that don’t die out and actually hit the earth can be harmful, but are of great use to astronomers as they help them learn more about the solar system.
Very large meteors can hit the earth’s surface causing a massive crater.
The speed of a meteoroid traveling through the earth’s atmosphere has speed at least 5 times of that of sound. Their mere passing by a building can lead to broken windows due to shock waves.