The word ‘meteor’ is derived from the Greek language and is translated to mean ‘suspended in the air’. But what exactly are they?
Astronomy defines a meteor as a meteoroid that enters planet Earth’s atmosphere. These meteors can be composed of a combination of rock and various metals. Have you ever chanced upon a shooting star? Yup, that’s a meteor for you right there!
Wait! Now what’s a Meteoroid? It’s a small body of rock wandering in outer space. Now back to the meteors.
Did you know that the Earth’s atmosphere is penetrated by millions of meteors every day?
We bet you didn’t. Just like you might not know the most fascinating facts about meteors that we’re about to list down for you.
When we say small, we mean that a meteor can range in size anywhere between being as small as a grain of sand and as big as a baseball. If they’re less than 2mm in diameter they’re called a micrometeorite. Normally, most meteors range around the size of an average pebble, a baseball is as big as they get. If they grow bigger than 10m in diameter, they’re outcast as an asteroid!
It is believed that the extinction of dinosaurs was caused by an 8-mile meteor that hit the Earth and caused a dust cloud that altered the climate dinosaurs were conditioned for. Well if that’s true, we know who’s to blame for the fact that we don’t have dinosaurs anymore!
Astronomers believe that every year there are around 500 meteorites that manage to reach the surface of the Earth. However, out of these hardly five or six are recovered for the scientists to study. Why? That’s because most meteors drop in the ocean – can’t blame them for the Earth’s surface being composed of 71% water. What happens to the rest of them? They burn up in the atmosphere of our planet!
When they burn, some meteors burn brighter than the norm – they are called fireballs. Fireballs give off different hues when they burn, depending on their metallic composition. You can consider yourself lucky if you can spot a fireball, because they usually occur during daytime (where the sun blinds their sighting) or over the ocean.
Ever heard about a meteor shower? It’s a short time frame where millions of meteors appear on the sky. Meteor showers occur as an aftermath of a broken comet. There are two that occur every year. The Geminids can be witnessed in December, and the Perseids can be seen in August. Keep a look out for when they might be occurring this year around.
Oh, and before you even think about it, if you ever come across one, it’s absolutely illegal to trade a meteorite in South Africa. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
By the way, did you know that a study conducted in 1985 declared that a human being is bound to be hit by a meteorite once in every 180 years? The first and only known victim of a meteorite hit was Ann Hodges of Alabama. The meteorite hit her in her home back in 1954. Guess we’ll have to wait around till the year 2134 to find out how true the 1985 study was.
But then again, will the world still exist by then? Who knows!