card
059

meteorites

OLogy Series
astronomy
card
059

meteorites

OLogy Series
astronomy

Did you ever see a "shooting star"? What you really saw was a meteor burning up in the Earth's atmosphere. A meteor is made up of bits of dust and rock that broke away from colliding asteroids, comets, or planets. Most of these chunks of rock and metal burn up in the Earth's atmosphere and become meteoroids. If they reach the Earth's surface we call them meteorites.

A Rock from the Sky
The largest meteorite ever found in the United States is called the Willamette Meteorite. This massive meteorite is displayed at the American Museum of Natural History. Thousands of years ago, it entered the Earth's atmosphere and crashed onto the surface. It landed in an area we know today as the Willamette Valley in the state of Oregon, which is how the meteorite got its name. For millions more years, the meteorite lay exposed to the humid, rainy weather. Over time, the rain slowly wore holes in the meteorite. Scientists are still studying the meteorite to learn about the early solar system. The meteorite has cultural importance as well. A Native American tribe called the Clackamas live in the Willamette Valley. They believe that the meteorite was sent to them by the Sky People. The rainwater that collected in its holes was used for healing, cleansing, and strength. Descendants of the Clackamas have preserved these traditions through ceremonies and songs.

A Rock from the Sky
The largest meteorite ever found in the United States is called the Willamette Meteorite. This massive meteorite is displayed at the American Museum of Natural History. Thousands of years ago, it entered the Earth's atmosphere and crashed onto the surface. It landed in an area we know today as the Willamette Valley in the state of Oregon, which is how the meteorite got its name. For millions more years, the meteorite lay exposed to the humid, rainy weather. Over time, the rain slowly wore holes in the meteorite. Scientists are still studying the meteorite to learn about the early solar system. The meteorite has cultural importance as well. A Native American tribe called the Clackamas live in the Willamette Valley. They believe that the meteorite was sent to them by the Sky People. The rainwater that collected in its holes was used for healing, cleansing, and strength. Descendants of the Clackamas have preserved these traditions through ceremonies and songs.

How many people have ever been hit by meteorites in the United States?

one person

15 people

212 people

Are you right?

Correct!

A meteorite has struck only one unlucky person. Mrs. Hewlett Hodges was relaxing in her Alaskan home in 1954 when a 10-pound meteorite crashed through her roof and bruised her side.

The biggest meteorite ever found weighed:

60 ounces

60 pounds

60 tons

Are you right?

Correct!

The Hoba Meteorite was discovered in the African country of Namibia in 1920. It's so big that its discoverers left it where it was found. To see this huge meteorite, you would have to go to Namibia.

Some scientists believe that the meteorite that caused a 190-mile-wide crater in Mexico also caused the:

extinction of the dinosaurs

formation of the Himalayas

formation of the Moon

Are you right?

Correct!

Some scientists believe that this enormous impact 65 million years ago sent huge amounts of debris into the sky. They think that the debris caused a long period of darkness and a change in climate that the dinosaurs at the time could not survive.

Most meteorites formed about 4.5 billion years ago, the same time that the Sun and planets formed. Meteorites are as old as our solar system!

The best place to find meteorites is on the bottom of the ocean.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Most meteorites land in the ocean, but they are easiest to find in places like Antarctica and the Sahara, where they're not hidden by trees and grass.

Total mass of meteorites that hits Earth each year: about 40,000 tons
Size: from a small pebble to a 60-ton boulder
Type: sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic
Primary minerals: silicates, nickel, or iron
Significance: chunks of cosmic debris provide clues about planet formation
Cool fact: Many small meteorites are cold when they land on the ground because they spent most of their time in deep space, where it's really cold.

Image credits: courtesy of AMNH; Denton Ebel.