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Meteoroids, Meteors and Meteorites




Meteoroids

Meteoroids are small pieces of rock or dust that orbit the Sun. They usually come from collisions between asteroids, which breaks off some of the rocky material and sends it into its own orbit around the Sun.

Meteors

If you look up at the sky on a dark night you can sometimes see streaks of light, called shooting stars. These are actually meteoroids burning up in the Earth's atmosphere. Several times a year it is possible to see meteor showers. This is when the Earth passes through the rock and ice left behind by a comet. Some of these showers can have a few meteors an hour, but others have one or two every second. The name of the meteor shower tells us which part of the sky it seems to come from, for example, the Perseid shower seems to come from the constellation of Perseus.

Shower Date of
Maximum  
Approximate  
Hourly Rate
Quadrantids Jan 3/4 100
Lyrids April 21 10
Eta Aquarids May 5 35
Delta Aquarids (south)
(north)
July 29
Aug 6
25
10
Perseids Aug 12 80
Orionids Oct 20-22 25
Taurids Nov 5 10
Leonids Nov 17 10
Geminids Dec 13 100
Ursids Dec 23 10


Meteorites

An iron meteorite found in the Antarctic Meteor Crater in Barringer, Arizona Meteorites are meteors that reach the ground. They are usually made of rock or iron. About 40-50 tonnes of meteoroids hit the top of the Earth’s atmosphere every day, but these burn up in the atmosphere and only about a tonne reaches the ground. When a large meteorite strikes the ground it will form a crater. An example of this is Meteor Crater in Arizona. The crater is 1.2 km across and 175m deep. It was made 50 000 years ago by a meteorite only about 50m across.



Planets Introduction

Mercury

Venus

Earth

The Moon

Mars

Jupiter

Saturn

Uranus

Neptune

Pluto

Asteroids

Comets

Extra-Solar Planets



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Authors: Carolyn Brinkworth and Claire Thomas

Last updated: July 2001