Earth and the Moon
Meteors and Meteorites
What can scientists learn from meteorites?
Modern scientific computations have shown that this incredible explosion was probably caused by a small, rocky asteroid or comet about one hundred feet across. Computer simulations show that it most likely came into Earth’s atmosphere at a shallow angle and exploded in mid-air above the forest. The explosion packed a punch easily greater than one thousand Hiroshima atomic bombs.
Since meteorites are so old, scientists study them to learn about the early history of our solar system in much the same way that paleontologists study fossils to learn about life on Earth millions of years ago. Some of the oldest stony meteorites even contain grains of material that are older than the solar system.
Metallic meteorites can also be used to learn about the insides of planets like our own. One kind of meteorite, for example, contains both metal and minerals locked together in beautiful and complex patterns. Scientists study these objects, called palla-sites, to gain insights on the internal structure of Earth near its metallic core.