As the Perseid Shower is the main event in the first part of August, here are some more details on meteors and meteorites. What are they, where do they come from, where to they go to, can we find them on Earth too? Specialists say there are no dangers and risks with meteorites.
Meteors are small fragments of outer space origin. They are pieces of larger solid objects, such as comets, asteroids or meteoroids. When they enter Earth’s atmosphere, friction, and other processes contribute to the erosion of meteors. Many of them turn into dust before hitting the ground, and others are left in just small pieces.
The pieces that still remain and hit the Earth are called meteorites. They are hard to find, though, because more often than not, they land in forests or oceans, so that no one knows their location, and nature finds its way to cover them even more.
Nevertheless, there have been recorded some cases of meteorites landing in populated areas. For instance, in 2009, a meteorite broke the windshield of a car in Canada, but such incidents never resulted in human injuries.
Researcher Cooke informs us that the greatest risk with meteorites is not the possible damage the falling rocks can cause, but the shock wave:
“What causes the most damage is the shock wave produced by the meteor when it breaks apart in [Earth’s] atmosphere. So, you don’t have to watch for the falling rocks — you have to worry about the shockwave.”
He further explained that shock waves produce the same impact as explosions, and such an event happened in Russia. In 2013 shock wave from a meteor which didn’t hit the ground injured more than one thousand people.
Scientists say they can’t predict these sort of events, neither localize all the small rocky pieces falling from space and reaching the Earth. However, some fragments have been found, so that experts know how to distinguish between meteorites originating from a comet or an asteroid.
Researcher Moorhead provides us with more details:
“Only those meteoroids that happen to be made of stronger material produce meteorites. (…)the [meteoroid] is a chunk of an asteroid, instead of a chunk of a comet, it’s likely to be a little denser, a little stronger and more likely to produce a meteorite.”
Now having learned more about meteors and meteorites, don’t forget about the high peak of the Perseid Shower: August 11-12. Enjoy the view!
Image source: Wikipedia