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Meteorite Facts and Photos

large meteorite on display in a museum

What Exactly are Meteorites?

A meteorite is a natural object that originated in outer space.  Following an impact with Earth's surface it has survived without being destroyed.

Whilst still in space the object is called a meteoroid.  Once it enters Earth's atmosphere resistance to air causes it to heat up and emit light hence forming a fireball.  It then becomes known as a meteor or shooting star.

Meteorites tend to be fragments of rock and/or metal which have broken away from a larger extraterrestrial body.  They can measure anything from a fraction of a millimetre.  The largest meteorite ever to have collided with Earth is believed to have been approximately six to nine miles in diameter.

Captured by Earth's gravitational force they're accelerated to speeds of over 11.2 kilometres per second.  As they enter Earth's thick gassy atmosphere they slow down rapidly because of friction.  As that happens they begin to glow.  The flashes across the sky eventually crash to the ground.

Most meteorites disintegrate when entering Earth's atmosphere.  Thousands are still found all over the world each year.  It's extremely rare to see one hit the ground becuase most seem to fall into the sea.

The best place to spot a meteorite is in dry places such as deserts where they don't erode so quickly and are less likely to be obscured by vegetation.

Most meteorites are fragments that have come away as two asteroids collide.  Asteroids are irregular shaped rocks that orbit the sun.  There are many thousands in our solar system.

A small number of asteroids come from the moon and Mars.  Some of these can be as young as 180 million years old.

Meteorites are very occasionally used as gemstones because of their rarity.  They're also used for their metaphysical properties. 

When used in alternative therapies a meteorite is said to balance energy, improve endurance and help deal with the effects of sadness.  In many cultures they're looked upon as being sacred.

The iron nickel meteorite in our photograph is on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C.  The photo is clickable and redirects to the original non-compressed image. 

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