Meteorite – Concept, types, examples and characteristics

We explain what a meteorite is, its characteristics and differences with asteroids. Also, crashed meteorites on Earth.

Meteorites are objects from space that reach the earth’s surface.

What is a meteorite?

Meteorites or aerolites they are rock fragments from outer space to our planet, which survive the friction with the atmosphere, on its way to crash into the earth’s crust.

When an object from outside it passes through the atmosphere, its friction generates high temperatures and causes wear. When these rocks disintegrate, even partially, they generate a light trail known as meteor.

Meteorites are, then, meteors that survive their entry into the atmosphere, falling somewhere on the Earth’s surface. Both “meteor” and “meteorite” are words from the Greek meteors, which translates “phenomenon in the sky.”

A third term used in science is meteoroid, to refer to the particles that enter the atmosphere, regardless of whether or not the atmospheric phenomenon described above occurs.

Meteorites do not fall exclusively on Earth. On Mars and the Moon we have found abundant evidence of impacts, and it is assumed that during the early stages of the formation of the Solar System, the abundance of matter scattered in space produced very high meteoric activity.

On our planet there are more than 31,000 documented meteorite impacts. Each one bears the name of the place where his remains are found, followed by letters or numbers.

Meteorite characteristics

Meteorites have an irregular shape and a diverse chemical composition. It is estimated that rocky meteors are more abundant (depending on, at least, impacts on Earth) over metallic or metallic-rocky ones.

Like comets, many of them contain material from the very formation of the Solar System, and can provide valuable scientific information.

Meteorites generally possess a size that ranges from a few centimeters to several meters, and they are usually found in the heart of craters that they generated in their fall. That is why many of them are discovered hundreds or thousands of years later, in the middle of geological explorations.

Types of meteorite

meteorite types chondrite rocky
Chondrites are a type of stony meteorite.

Meteorites are traditionally classified according to their composition, into three different categories:

  • Stony (rocks). Called aeroliths or lititosare mainly made up of silicate minerals, either chondrites (more abundant) or achondrites (similar to igneous rocks).
  • Metallic. Called siderites, are composed mainly of iron and nickel.
  • Metallic-stony. Intermediate category, which contains both metal and rock, and is called litosiderito.

Difference between asteroid and meteor

The main difference between asteroids and meteoroids has to do with size. Asteroids are biggerAlthough smaller than a planet, they are floating in space in belts or simply wandering around. That is have not impacted the earth’s surface.

Instead, meteoroids are smaller, especially after impacting the atmosphere, and are those that reach the earth’s surface. It is possible to imagine that an asteroid that fragments releasing smaller pieces that, when entering our planet, become meteorites.

Largest meteorites that impacted the Earth

hoba namibia meteorite
The Hoba meteorite struck Namibia and weighs 66 tons.

Some of the largest meteorites that have been recorded on the planet were:

  • Cape York meteorite. Fallen in Savissivik, Greenland, weighing 582 tons.
  • Hoba meteorite. Fallen in Otjozondjupa, Namibia, weighing 66 tons.
  • Gancedo meteorite. Fallen in the Province of Chaco, Argentina, of 30.8 tons.
  • El Chaco meteorite. 28.8 tons dropped in the Province of Chaco, Argentina.
  • Bacubirito meteorite. Fallen in Sinaloa, Mexico, weighing 24 tons.