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The Williamette Meteorite is on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Credit: Dante Alighieri.

A meteorite is a natural object that survives impact with the Earth's surface.

Common objects falling from the sky are rain drops, snow flakes, and hail. Less often meteors are stones and chunks of metal.

A megacryometeor is a very large chunk of ice ... sometimes called huge hailstones, but do not need to form in thunderstorms.

Rocks found on the Moon have also been determined to be meteoritic; i.e., not of lunar origin, have survived impact with the lunar surface, probably came from "outer space". This suggests a more general definition of meteorite is needed.

Astronomy[edit | edit source]

This image is a cross-section of the Laguna Manantiales meteorite showing Widmanstätten patterns. Credit: Aram Dulyan.

A meteorite is a natural object originating in outer space that survives impact with the Earth's surface. Most meteorites derive from small astronomical objects called meteoroids. When a meteoroid enters the atmosphere, frictional, pressure, and chemical interactions with the atmospheric gasses cause the body to heat up and emit light, thus forming a fireball, also known as a meteor or shooting/falling star.

Meteorites have been found on the Moon[1][2] and Mars.[3]

Widmanstätten patterns, also called Thomson structures, are unique figures of long nickel-iron crystals, found in the octahedrite iron meteorites and some pallasites. They consist of a fine interleaving of kamacite and taenite bands or ribbons called lamellæ. Commonly, in gaps between the lamellæ, a fine-grained mixture of kamacite and taenite called plessite can be found.

Radiation[edit | edit source]

This is a natural color image of the weathered iron meteorite "Mackinac Island". Credit: NASA.
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has found this iron meteorite on Mars. This is the first meteorite of any type ever identified on another planet. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell.

Martian meteors are thought to be from Mars because they have elemental and isotopic compositions that are similar to rocks and atmosphere gases analyzed by spacecraft on Mars.[4]

The image at right is of the Mackinac Island meteorite, discovered on Mars by the NASA Opportunity rover on October 13, 2009.

At top left is "the first meteorite of any type ever identified on another planet. The pitted, basketball-size object is mostly made of iron and nickel. Readings from spectrometers on the rover determined that composition. Opportunity used its panoramic camera to take the images used in this approximately true-color composite on the rover's 339th martian day, or sol (Jan. 6, 2005). This composite combines images taken through the panoramic camera's 600-nanometer (red), 530-nanometer (green), and 480-nanometer (blue) filters."[5]

Comparison of the two meteorites shown here suggests that the left one is a much more recent fall.

Meteorites have been determined to occur on Earth, the Moon, and Mars.

Radiation in a general sense is an entity, source, or object moving fast relative to local entities, sources, or objects that are or appear relatively motionless such as the ground, an atmosphere (although the gases within may move fast), or a nearby mountain.

The larger the entity, source, or object that is radiating, the larger is the impact, or impact crater, and perhaps the surviving pieces, which can still be called a meteorite.

Objects larger than a molecule, that have been radiated, can be termed meteors. A meteor, or meteoroid, could range continuously to larger particle sizes to a maximum on the order of a galaxy cluster.

Planetary sciences[edit | edit source]

The American Museum of Natural History ensures access to the Willamette Meteorite. Credit: Ellen V. Futter.{{fairuse}}
Ahnighito fragment of the Cape York meteorite weighs 34 tons and is in the AMNH. Credit: Mike Cassano.{{free media}}

"Willamette Meteorite (Tomanowos iron meteorite) [is] another massive iron meteorite that slammed into the earth and left no crater, yet is the largest meteorite in the USA!"[6]

"Cape York iron meteorites are separate lumps of iron but have been grouped together as fragments of the same iron meteorite, as they are found around the same location. The iron pieces known as the Women and the Dog were found about 25 meters from each other on the mainland and Ahnighito was found on an island. They were found above the ground and with no visible crater around them, even for the largest one called Ahnighito."[7]

Cape York is in Savissivik, Northwwest Greenland. Ahnighito (the Tent) weighs 31 metric tons; the Woman, weighs 3 metric tons; the Dog, weighs 400 kilograms, Savik I 3.4 tons, Savik II 7.8 kg, and Agpalilik about 15 tons.[8]

"The meteorite lay on an ice-free slope 500 m from the shore and was partly covered with gneiss boulders. There was no crater and no crushing of rocks discovered."[8]

Minerals[edit | edit source]

In this image the mineral panguite occurs with the scandium-rich silicate davisite embedded in a piece of the Allende meteorite. Credit: Caltech/Chi Ma.

Mineral astronomy is the use of various astronomical techniques to locate and identify minerals and mineral deposits, especially on astronomical rocky objects.

At right is a thin-section image of a slice through the Allende meteorite. The Allende meteorite "lit up Mexico's skies in 1969 [and] scattered thousands of meteorite bits across the northern Mexico state of Chihuahua. ... Panguite [a titanium dioxide mineral] is believed to be among the oldest minerals in the solar system, which is [estimated to be] about 4.5 billion years old. Panguite belongs to a class of refractory minerals that could have formed only under the extreme temperatures and conditions present in the infant solar system."[9]

Theoretical meteorites[edit | edit source]

Def. "a meteor that reaches the surface of the Earth without being completely vaporized" is called a meteorite.[10]

Def. a "fast-moving streak of light in the night sky caused by the entry of extraterrestrial matter into the earth's atmosphere"[11] is called a meteor.

Here's a theoretical definition:

Def. "any natural object radiating through a portion or all of the Earth's or another natural, astronomical object's atmosphere"[12] is called a meteor.

Def. "a relatively small (sand- to boulder-sized) fragment of debris in a solar system"[13] is called a meteoroid.

Def. a "metallic or stony object or body that [is the remains of a meteor][14]oid][15] [or] has fallen to the surface of the Earth from outer space"[16] is called a meteorite.

These are usage notes:

  1. Such an object may be as small as an electron or much larger.
  2. Astronomical objects that are atoms, nuclei, or subatomic particles are part of cosmic-ray astronomy.
  3. Astronomical objects larger than atoms, nuclei, or subatomic particles that are fast-moving relative to perceived, almost motionless objects, radiating through another natural object's atmosphere or gaseous environment are also here referred to as meteors.
  4. These can be a high-velocity star moving through the interstellar medium or a larger object moving through an intergalactic medium.
  5. At the extreme a meteor can be a galaxy cluster moving relative to apparently stationary clusters in its neighborhood of the universe.

Def. for a meteor that strikes another entity, source, or object, which appears relatively motionless, and leaves behind a rock, that rock is called a meteorite.

Meteoroids[edit | edit source]

A meteoroid is a suggested term for a sand- to boulder-sized particle of debris in the Solar System. The visible path of a meteoroid that enters the Earth's atmosphere (or another body's) atmosphere is called a meteor, or colloquially a shooting star or falling star. If a meteoroid reaches the ground and survives impact, then it is called a meteorite.

"As of 2011 the International Astronomical Union officially defines a meteoroid as a solid object moving in interplanetary space, of a size considerably smaller than an asteroid and considerably larger than an atom".[17][18] Beech and Steel, writing in Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, proposed a new definition where a meteoroid is between 100 µm and 10 m across.[19] Following the discovery and naming of asteroids below 10 m in size (e.g., 2008 TC3), Rubin and Grossman refined the Beech and Steel definition of meteoroid to objects between 10 µm and 1 m in diameter.[20] The near-Earth object (NEO) definition includes larger objects, up to 50 m in diameter, in this category. Very small meteoroids are known as micrometeoroids (see also interplanetary dust).

The composition of meteoroids can be determined as they pass through Earth's atmosphere from their trajectories and the light spectra of the resulting meteor. Their effects on radio signals also give information, especially useful for daytime meteors which are otherwise very difficult to observe.

The light spectra, combined with trajectory and light curve measurements, have yielded various compositions and densities, ranging from fragile snowball-like objects with density about a quarter that of ice,[21] to nickel-iron rich dense rocks.

"The silicate spheres are the most dominant group."[22]

From these trajectory measurements, meteoroids have been found to have many different orbits, some clustering in streams (see meteor showers) often associated with a parent comet, others apparently sporadic. Debris from meteoroid streams may eventually be scattered into other orbits. ... Meteoroids travel around the Sun in a variety of orbits and at various velocities. The fastest ones move at about 26 miles per second (42 kilometers per second) through space in the vicinity of Earth's orbit. The Earth travels at about 18 miles per second (29 kilometers per second). Thus, when meteoroids meet the Earth's atmosphere head-on (which would only occur if the meteors were in a retrograde orbit), the combined speed may reach about 44 miles per second (71 kilometers per second). Meteoroids moving through the earth's orbital space average about 20 km/s.[23]

Meteors[edit | edit source]

The photograph shows the meteor, afterglow, and wake as distinct components of a meteor during the peak of the 2009 Leonid Meteor Shower. Credit: Navicore.
This picture is of the Alpha-Monocerotid meteor outburst in 1995. It is a timed exposure where the meteors have actually occurred several seconds to several minutes apart. Credit: NASA Ames Research Center/S. Molau and P. Jenniskens.

A meteor is the visible path of a meteoroid that has entered the Earth's atmosphere. Meteors typically occur in the mesosphere, and most range in altitude from 75 km to 100 km.[24] Millions of meteors occur in the Earth's atmosphere every day. Most meteoroids that cause meteors are about the size of a pebble.

Although there are many definitions of a meteor ranging from any atmospheric phenomenon to a fast-moving streak of light in the night sky caused by the entry of extraterrestrial matter into the earth's atmosphere: A shooting star or falling star, for this resource, an alternative definition is proposed.

Def. any natural object radiating through a portion or all of the Earth's or another natural object's atmosphere is called a meteor.

Such an object may be as small as an electron or much larger.

"The distribution of photographic meteors in iron, stony, and porous meteors is given in this paper".[25] "[A]mong all the 217 meteors for which we know the beginning there are 70 iron meteors, i. e. about 32 p. c., and 147 stony meteors, i. e. 68 p. c."[25] The meteor streams: Perseids, Geminids, Taurids, Lyrids, κ Cygnids and Virginids, are quite stony.[25]

"The dominant group in all cases are stony meteors."[25]

Meteors become visible between about 75 to 120 kilometers (34 - 70 miles) above the Earth. They disintegrate at altitudes of 50 to 95 kilometers (31-51 miles). Meteors have roughly a fifty percent chance of a daylight (or near daylight) collision with the Earth. Most meteors are, however, observed at night, when darkness allows fainter objects to be recognized.

Most meteors glow for about a second. A relatively small percentage of meteoroids hit the Earth's atmosphere and then pass out again: these are termed Earth-grazing fireballs (for example The Great Daylight 1972 Fireball).

Meteors may occur in showers, which arise when the Earth passes through a trail of debris left by a comet, or as "random" or "sporadic" meteors, not associated with a specific single cause. A number of specific meteors have been observed, largely by members of the public and largely by accident, but with enough detail that orbits of the meteoroids producing the meteors have been calculated. All of the orbits passed through the asteroid belt.[26]

Fireballs[edit | edit source]

This image taken October 17, 2012, is prior to the meteorite fall on the same day. Credit: Paola-Castillo; and Petrus M. Jenniskens, SETI Institute/NASA ARC.

A fireball is a brighter-than-usual meteor. The International Astronomical Union defines a fireball as "a meteor brighter than any of the planets" (magnitude −4 or greater).[27] The International Meteor Organization (an amateur organization that studies meteors) has a more rigid definition. It defines a fireball as a meteor that would have a magnitude of −3 or brighter if seen at zenith. This definition corrects for the greater distance between an observer and a meteor near the horizon. For example, a meteor of magnitude −1 at 5 degrees above the horizon would be classified as a fireball because if the observer had been directly below the meteor it would have appeared as magnitude −6.[28] For 2011 there are 4589 fireballs records at the American Meteor Society.[29]

At right is cell phone camera image of the green fireball over San Mateo, California, that left meteorite fragments. "The asteroid entered at a speed of 14 km/s, typical but on the slow side of other meteorite falls for which orbits were determined. ... The orbit in space is also rather typical: perihelion distance close to Earth's orbit (q = 0.987 AU) and a low-inclination orbit (about 5 degrees). ... 2012, October 17 - At 7:44:29 pm PDT this evening, a bright fireball was seen in the San Francisco Bay Area."[30]

Bolides[edit | edit source]

Def. a fireball reaching magnitude −14 or brighter.[31] is called a bolide.

Def. a fireball reaching an magnitude −17 or brighter is called a superbolide.

Meteor showers[edit | edit source]

This image is a fragment of the October 17, 2012, fireball over San Mateo, California. Credit: Petrus M. Jenniskens, SETI Institute/NASA ARC.
This is a second fragment from the fireball of October 17, 2012. Credit: Petrus M. Jenniskens, SETI Institute/NASA ARC.
This photograph shows the Leonids as many begin contacting the Earth's atmosphere. Credit: NASA.

The Perseid meteor shower, usually the richest meteor shower of the year, peaks in August. Over the course of an hour, a person watching a clear sky from a dark location might see as many as 50-100 meteors. Most meteors are actually pieces of rock that have broken off a comet and continue to orbit the Sun. The Earth travels through the comet debris in its orbit. As the small pieces enter the Earth's atmosphere, friction causes them to burn up.

"The Orionid meteor shower [leftover bits of Halley's Comet] is scheduled to reach its maximum before sunrise on Sunday morning (Oct. 21 [2012]). This will be an excellent year to look for the Orionids, since the moon will set around 11 p.m. local time on Saturday night (Oct. 20) and will not be a hindrance at all ... The orbit of Halley's Comet closely approaches the Earth's orbit at two places. One point is in the early part of May producing a meteor display known as the Eta Aquarids. The other point comes in the middle to latter part of October, producing the Orionids."[32]

"At 66 kilometers (41 miles) per second, they appear as fast streaks, faster by a hair than their sisters, the Eta Aquarids of May. And like the Eta Aquarids, the brightest of family tend to leave long-lasting trains. Fireballs are possible three days after maximum."[33]

At right is a meteorite fragment from the October 17, 2012, green fireball over San Mateo, California, USA. "It is 63 grams, dense (feels heavy) and responds to a magnet (note: better to keep magnets away from meteorites to preserve the natural magnetic field)."[30]

"The meteorite looks very unusual, because much of the fusion crust had come off. ... The meteorite appears to be a breccia, with light and dark parts."[30]

The first meteorite from the San Mateo, California, fireball was looked at with a petrographic microscope and concluded it was not a meteorite. The crust appeared to be a product of weathering. The find of a second meteorite with the same crust confirms the first and second to be ordinary chondrites.[34] The photo on the right side shows the second meteorite cut in two.[34]

"The Leonid meteor shower peaked early Saturday (Nov. 17 [2012]), and some night sky watchers caught a great view. The Leonids are a yearly meteor display of shooting stars that appear to radiate out of the constellation Leo. They are created when Earth crosses the path of debris from the comet Tempel-Tuttle, which swings through the inner solar system every 33 years."[35]

Cosmic rays[edit | edit source]

This is a micrometeorite collected from the antarctic snow. Credit: NASA.

Micrometeorite is often abbreviated as MM. Most MMs are broadly chondritic in composition, meaning "that major elemental abundance ratios are within about 50% of those observed in carbonaceous chondrites."[36] Some MMs are chondrites, (basaltic) howardite, eucrite, and diogenite (HED) meteorites or Martian basalts, but not lunar samples.[36] "[T]he comparative mechanical weakness of carbonaceous precursor materials tends to encourage spherule formation."[36] From the number of different asteroidal precursors, the approximate fraction in MMs is 70 % carbonaceous.[36] "[T]he carbonaceous material [is] known from observation to dominate the terrestrial MM flux."[36] The "H, L, and E chondritic compositions" are "dominant among meteorites but rare among micrometeorites."[36]

"Ureilites occur about half as often as eucrites (Krot et al. 2003), are relatively friable, have less a wide range of cosmic-ray exposure ages including two less than 1 Myr, and, like the dominant group of MM precursors, contain carbon."[36]

Liquid objects[edit | edit source]

Def. a flammable liquid ranging in color from clear to very dark brown and black, consisting mainly of hydrocarbons is called petroleum.

Rocky objects[edit | edit source]

This is an image of an olivine rock. Credit: Canica.
Cristobalite spheres appear within obsidian. Credit: Rob Lavinsky.
Specimen consists of "porcelainite" - a semivitrified chert- or jasper-like rock composed of cordierite, mullite and tridymite, admixture of corundum, and subordinate K-feldspar. Credit: John Krygier.

A rock is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids.

Def. a solid, homogeneous, crystalline chemical element or compound that results from natural inorganic processes is called a mineral.

Alpha-quartz (space group P3121, no. 152, or P3221, no. 154) under a high pressure of 2-3 gigapascals and a moderately high temperature of 700°C changes space group to monoclinic C2/c, no. 15, and becomes the mineral coesite. It is found in extreme conditions such as the impact craters of meteorites.

Def. a high-temperature (above 1470°C) polymorph of α-quartz with cubic, Fd3m, space group no. 227, and a tetragonal form (P41212, space group no. 92) is called cristobalite.

Def. a polymorph of α-quartz formed by pressures > 100 kbar or 10 GPa and temperatures > 1200 °C is called stishovite.

Def. a polymorph of α-quartz formed at an estimated minimum pressure of 35 GPa up to pressures above 40 GPa with a orthorhombic space group Pmmm no. 47 is called seifertite.

Def. a polymorph of α-quartz formed at temperatures from 22-460°C with at least seven space groups for its forms with tabular crystals is called tridymite.

Def. a substance that resembles a mineral but does not exhibit crystallinity is called a mineraloid.

Def. a small, round, dark glassy object, composed of silicates is called a tektite.

Def. any natural material with a distinctive composition of minerals is called a rock.

Shocked quartz is associated with two high pressure polymorphs of silicon dioxide: coesite and stishovite. These polymorphs have a crystal structure different from standard quartz. Again, this structure can only be formed by intense pressure, but moderate temperatures. High temperatures would anneal the quartz back to its standard form. Stishovite may be formed by an instantaneous over pressure such as by an impact or nuclear explosion type event.

So far several of the polymorphs of α-quartz formed at high temperature and pressure occur with rock types away from meteorite impact craters.

Def. full of, or abounding in, rocks; consisting of rocks is called rocky.

A division of astronomical objects between rocky objects and gaseous objects (including gas giants and stars) may be natural and informative. This division allows moons like Io to be viewed as rocky objects like Earth as part of rocky object science rather than as a natural satellite around a gaseous object like Jupiter, or a plasma object like a coronal cloud.

Astronomical objects that radiate, reflect, or fluoresce may range in size from individual atoms or subatomic particles to rocky objects. A rocky object may be radiation, radiated, or irradiated.

Bombs[edit | edit source]

This image is of a bomb in the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, Idaho, USA. Credit: National Park Service.
This is a volcanic bomb found in a shield volcano near Kladno. The rock hammer is a size gauge. Credit: Chmee2.
This is an accretionary lava ball. Credit: J. D. Griggs, USGS HVO.
This is a fusiform lava bomb from Capelinhos Vulcano, Faial Island, Azores. Credit: M. Hollunder (Apollo 8).
This is a volcanic bomb found in the Mojave Desert National Preserve by Rob McConnell. Credit: Wilson44691.
This is a volcanic bomb at Vulcania (Puy-de-Dôme). Credit: Ji-Elle.
A volcanic bomb has deformed the rock strata. Credit: Drucker03.
Volcanic bomb was found in the lava-fields of Mt. Hekla (Iceland). Credit: Roger McLassus.
This is a picture of a lavabomb at Strohn Germany. Credit: Jhintzbe.
A volcanic bomb from 350,000 BC. Credit: Ziko van Dijk.
This volcanic bomb has a diameter of about 10 cm. Credit: Siim Sepp.

Def. "distinctively shaped [natural] projectiles ... which acquired their shape essentially before landing"[37] are called bombs.

Volcanic bombs are thrown into the sky and travel some distance before returning to the ground.

Def. a bomb "ejected from a volcanic vent"[37] is called a volcanic bomb.

"Confirmation of the source of excess argon comes from step-heating experiments on multiple anorthoclase aliquots separated from two phenocrysts and one glass aliquot prepared from the matrix of a volcanic bomb."[38]

Sopečná puma, též sopečná bomba, je těleso, které vzniká při explozi vulkánu. Jedná se o pyroklastický materiál, který je během exploze vymrštěn do okolí vulkánu.

The second image at right is a volcanic bomb found in a shield volcano near Kladno. The rock hammer is a size gauge.

Volcanic bombs can be thrown many kilometres from an erupting vent, and often acquire aerodynamic shapes during their flight.

The third image at right is an "[a]ccretionary lava ball comes to rest on the grass after rolling off the top of an ‘a‘a flow in Royal Gardens subdivision. Accretionary lava balls form as viscous lava is molded around a core of already solidified lava."[39]

Volcanic bombs cool into solid fragments before they reach the ground. Because volcanic bombs cool after they leave the volcano, they do not have grains making them extrusive igneous rocks. Volcanic bombs can be thrown many kilometres from an erupting vent, and often acquire aerodynamic shapes during their flight.

Volcanic bombs can be extremely large; the 1935 eruption of Mount Asama in Japan expelled bombs measuring 5–6 m in diameter up to 600 m from the vent.

Volcanic bombs are known to occasionally explode from internal gas pressure as they cool, but ... explosions are rare ... Bomb explosions are most often observed in 'bread-crust' type bombs.

Ribbon or cylindrical bombs form from highly to moderately fluid magma, ejected as irregular strings and blobs. The strings break up into small segments which fall to the ground intact and look like ribbons. Hence, the name "ribbon bombs". These bombs are circular or flattened in cross section, are fluted along their length, and have tabular vesicles.

Spherical bombs also form from high to moderately fluid magma. In the case of spherical bombs, surface tension plays a major role in pulling the ejecta into spheres.

Spindle, fusiform, or almond/rotational bombs are formed by the same processes as spherical bombs, though the major difference being the partial nature of the spherical shape. Spinning during flight leaves these bombs looking elongated or almond shaped; the spinning theory behind these bombs' development has also given them the name 'fusiform bombs'. Spindle bombs are characterised by longitudinal fluting, one side slightly smoother and broader than the other. This smooth side represents the underside of the bomb as it fell through the air.

Cow pie bombs are formed when highly fluid magma falls from moderate height; so the bombs do not solidify before impact (they are still liquid when they strike the ground). They consequently flatten or splash and form irregular roundish disks, which resemble cow-dung.

Bread-crust bombs are formed if the outside of the lava bombs solidifies during their flights. They may develop cracked outer surfaces as the interiors continue to expand.

Cored bombs are bombs that have rinds of lava enclosing a core of previously consolidated lava. The core consists of accessory fragments of an earlier eruption, accidental fragments of country rock or, in rare cases, bits of lava formed earlier during the same eruption.

Natural bombs may produce impact craters and deform rock strata.

"[I]ron oxide melts can exist in nature [as indicated] by describing a volcanic bomb composed of magnetite from El Laco."[40] "[E]xistence of ballistic volcanic bombs composed of radiating porous aggregates of magnetite crystals in some of the orebodies, demonstrates that apatite iron ores can form directly from a melt."[40]

"The sulfur isotope ratio as well as the sulfur content were found to be uniform within a single unit of lava flow and a volcanic bomb."[41]

"Volcanic bombs with a distinctive shape are produced by post-impact mechanical rounding processes while traveling at high speed down the slopes of the scoria cone of the Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala. The name “cannonball bombs” is proposed for bombs formed by this mechanism."[42]

"There have been recorded in all periods of historic time ... showers of one kind or another of animals and plants or their products -- showers of hay, of grain, of manna, of blood, of fishes, of frogs, and even of rats. ... so many wonderful things occur in nature that negation of any observation is dangerous; it is better to preserve a judicial attitude and regard all (authentic) information that comes to hand as so much evidence, some of it supporting one side, some the other, of a given problem."[43]

"Mr. A. N. Caudell, of the United States Bureau of Entomology ... relates that at his former home in Oklahoma, on one occasion after a brief shower during an otherwise dry and hot period, numerous earthworms were found on the seat of an open buggy standing in the yard."[43]

"[T]he statement by the famous French scientist, Francis Castlenau, ... he had seen fishes rain down in Singapore in such numbers that the natives went about picking them up by the basketful".[43]

"By the tornado at Beauregard, Miss., April 22, 1883, the solid iron screw of a cotton press, weighing 675 pounds, was carried 900 feet."[43]

"In the tornado at Mount Carmel, Ill., June 4, 1877, a piece of tin roof was carried 15 miles and a church spire 17 miles."[43]

Iron meteorites[edit | edit source]

Petrologic types[edit | edit source]

The degree to which a meteorite has been affected by the secondary processes of thermal metamorphism and aqueous alteration on the parent asteroid is indicated by its petrologic type, which appears as a number following the group name (e.g., an LL5 chondrite belongs to the LL group and has a petrologic type of 5).[44]

Type 1[edit | edit source]

Current usage of type 1 is simply to indicate meteorites that have experienced extensive aqueous alteration, to the point that most of their olivine and pyroxene have been altered to hydrous phases. This alteration took place at temperatures of 50 to 150 °C, so type 1 chondrites were warm, but not hot enough to experience thermal metamorphism.

Type 2[edit | edit source]

Chondrites have experienced extensive aqueous alteration, but still contain recognizable chondrules as well as primary, unaltered olivine and/or pyroxene. The fine-grained matrix is generally fully hydrated and minerals inside chondrules may show variable degrees of hydration. This alteration probably occurred at temperatures below 20 °C, and again, these meteorites are not thermally metamorphosed. Almost all CM and CR chondrites are petrologic type 2; with the exception of some ungrouped carbonaceous chondrites, no other chondrites are type 2.

Type 3[edit | edit source]

Low degrees of metamorphism, often referred to as unequilibrated chondrites because minerals such as olivine and pyroxene show a wide range of compositions, reflecting formation under a wide variety of conditions in the solar nebula. Chondrites that remain in nearly pristine condition, with all components (chondrules, matrix, etc.) having nearly the same composition and mineralogy as when they accreted to the parent asteroid, are designated type 3.0. As petrologic type increases from type 3.1 through 3.9, profound mineralogical changes occur, starting in the dusty matrix, and then increasingly affecting the coarser-grained components like chondrules. Type 3.9 chondrites still look superficially unchanged because chondrules retain their original appearances, but all of the minerals have been affected, mostly due to diffusion of elements between grains of different composition.

Type 4[edit | edit source]

Chondrites have been increasingly altered by thermal metamorphism. These are equilibrated chondrites, in which the compositions of most minerals have become quite homogeneous due to high temperatures. By type 4, the matrix has thoroughly recrystallized and coarsened in grain size.

Type 5[edit | edit source]

By type 5, chondrules begin to become indistinct and matrix cannot be discerned.

Type 6[edit | edit source]

In type 6 chondrites, chondrules begin to integrate with what was once matrix, and small chondrules may no longer be recognizable. As metamorphism proceeds, many minerals coarsen and new, metamorphic minerals such as feldspar form.

Type 7[edit | edit source]

Type 7 chondrites have experienced the highest temperatures possible, short of that required to produce melting. Should the onset of melting occur the meteorite would probably be classified as a primitive achondrite instead of a chondrite.

Stony-iron meteorites[edit | edit source]

A slice of the Esquel meteorite shows the mixture of meteoric iron and silicates that is typical of this division. Credit: Doug Bowman.{{free media}}

Stony-iron meteorites or siderolites are meteorites that consist of nearly equal parts of meteoric iron and silicates. This distinguishes them from the stony meteorites, that are mostly silicates, and the iron meteorites, that are mostly meteoric iron.[45]

Stony-irons or siderolites are all differentiated, meaning that they show signs of alteration and are achondrites.

The stony-irons are divided into mesosiderites and pallasites. Pallasites have a matrix of meteoric iron with embedded silicates (most of it olivine).[46] Mesosiderites are breccias which show signs of metamorphism. The meteoric iron occurs in clasts instead of a matrix.[47][48]

The meteoric iron of stony-irons is similar to that of iron meteorites, consisting mostly of kamacite and taenite in different proportions. The silicates are dominated by olivine. Accessory minerals that also include non-silicates are: carlsbergite, chromite, cohenite, daubréelite, feldspar, graphite, ilmenite, merrillite, low-calcium pyroxene, schreibersite, tridymite and troilite.

There are specific categories for mixed-composition meteorites, in which iron and 'stony' materials are combined.

  • II) Stony–iron meteorites
    • Pallasites
      • Main group pallasites
      • Eagle station pallasite grouplet
      • Pyroxene Pallasite grouplet
    • Mesosiderite group

Eagle Station group[edit | edit source]

Eagle Station meteorite is the type specimen for the group. Credit: Elke Wetzig Elya.{{free media}}

The Eagle Station group (abbreviated PES - Pallasite Eagle Station) is a set of pallasite meteorite specimen that don't fit into any of the other defined pallasite groups. In meteorite classification five meteorites have to be found, so they can be defined as their own group.[49] Currently only five Eagle Station type meteorites have been found, which is just enough for a separate group.[50]

The Eagle Station group is named after the Eagle Station meteorite, the type specimen of the group. It is in turned named after Eagle Station, Carroll County Kentucky where it was found.[51]

The Eagle Station group has a composition similar to Main group pallasites. Diagnostic differences are that the olivine is richer in iron and calcium. The group also has a distinct oxygen isotope signature.[49]

The meteoric iron is similar to the IIF iron meteorites. This might indicate that Eagle station group and IIF formed close to each other in the solar nebula.[49]

The trace elements in the phosphates of the Eagle Station group are distinct from other pallasites. Most pallasites are believed to be derived from the core-mantle boundary. Trace elements indicate that the Eagle Station group came from shallower depths of their parent body.[52]

Only five specimen have been found so far:[50]

  • Cold Bay meteorite.
  • Eagle Station meteorite (type specimen).
  • Itzawisis meteorite.
  • Karavannoe meteorite.
  • Oued Bourdim 001.
  1. Type: Stony-iron.
  2. Class: Pallasite.
  3. Composition: Meteoric iron, silicate minerals.

Eagle Station meteorites[edit | edit source]

Pallasite is from: Eagle Station, Kentucky/USA, Mineralogisches Museum Bonn. Credit: Elke Wetzig Elya.{{free media}}

Eagle station pallasite grouplet (PES): 5 specimens known. They are related to IIF irons.

Main group pallasites[edit | edit source]

Esquel meteorties[edit | edit source]

An example of a Pallasite meteorite (from the Esquel fall) on display in the Vale Inco Limited Gallery of Minerals at the Royal Ontario Museum. Credit: Captmondo.{{free media}}

Esquel is regarded as one of the most beautiful meteorites ever found and is also one of the most desirable pallasites among meteorite collectors. It is a main group pallasite (MGP).

Pallasite ungrouped[edit | edit source]

Pallasites ungrouped (P-ung): Specimens that don't fit into any groups or grouplets.

Pyroxene Pallasite grouplet[edit | edit source]

Pyroxene Pallasite (PPX) counts only Vermillion and Yamato 8451. They take their name from the high orthopyroxene content (about 5%). Metal matrix shows a fine octahedrite Widmanstätten pattern.

Vermillion meteorites[edit | edit source]

The Vermillion meteorite is a pallasite (stony-iron) meteorite and one of two members of the pyroxene pallasite grouplet.[49]

It was recognized as a meteorite and first described in 1995.[53]

The silicates include olivine (93% of silicates), orthopyroxene (5%), chromite (1.5%) and merrillite (0.5%).[54] Other accessory minerals include troilite, whitlockite,[49] and cohenite.[55]

The Vermillion meteorite is classified as a pyroxene pallasite because it contains pyroxene as an accessory mineral and shares a distinct oxygen isotope signature with Yamato 8451 meteorite.[49] Some studies also object to this grouping, referring to the differences in siderophile trace elements and the occurrence of cohenite in the Vermillion meteorite.[55]

  1. Type: Achondrite, pallasite.
  2. Grouplet: Pyroxene pallasite grouplet.
  3. Composition: Meteoric iron (~86%) silicates (~14%).
  4. Country: United States.
  5. Region: Kansas.
  6. Coordinates: 39°44′11″N 96°21′41″W / 39.73639°N 96.36139°W / 39.73639; -96.36139.
  7. Observed fall: No.
  8. Found date: 1991.
  9. TKW: 34.36 kilograms (75.8 lb).

Achondrites[edit | edit source]

This image shows a unique and beautiful achondrite meteorite. Credit: Jon Taylor.{{free media}}
This image shows a meteorite from the Millbillillie meteorite shower. Credit: H. Raab (Vest).{{free media}}

An achondrite is a stony meteorite that does not contain chondrules. It consists of material similar to terrestrial basalts or plutonic rocks and has been differentiated and reprocessed to a lesser or greater degree due to melting and recrystallization on or within meteorite parent bodies.[56][57] As a result, achondrites have distinct textures and mineralogies indicative of igneous processes.[58]

Achondrites account for about 8% of meteorites overall, and the majority (about two thirds) of them are HED meteorites, originating from the crust of asteroid 4 Vesta. Other types include Martian, Lunar, and several types thought to originate from as-yet unidentified asteroids other than Vesta. These groups have been determined on the basis of e.g. the Fe/Mn chemical ratio and the 17
oxygen isotope ratios, thought to be characteristic "fingerprints" for each parent body.[59]

There is a "precise mixing required to create oxygen-18" in "silica grains".[60]

"[S]ilica (SiO2) grains in the primitive carbonaceous chondrites LaPaZ 031117 and Grove Mountains 021710 ... are characterized by moderate enrichments in 18O relative to solar, indicating that they originated in Type II supernova ejecta."[61]

The second image at right is a 175g individual of the Millbillillie meteorite shower, a eucrite achondrite that fell in Australia in 1960. This specimen is approx. 6 centimeters wide. Note the shiny black fusion crust with flow lines. The chip at lower right allows one to see the light-gray interior. The orange staining at top is a result of weathering, as these stones were not recovered until many years after they fell.

Achondrites are classified into the following groups:[62]

  • Primitive achondrites.
  • Asteroidal achondrites.
  • Lunar meteorites.
  • Martian meteorites.

Primitive achondrites, also called PAC group, are so-called because their chemical composition is primitive in the sense that it is similar to the composition of chondrites, but their texture is igneous, indicative of melting processes. To this group belong:[63]

  • Acapulcoites (after the meteorite Acapulco, Mexico)
  • Brachinites (after the meteorite Brachina)
  • Lodranites (after the meteorite Lodran)
  • Winonaites (after the meteorite Winona)
  • Ureilites (after the meteorite Novy Ureii, Russia)

Asteroidal achondrites[edit | edit source]

A slice of "NWA 2999", an angrite, is similar to a terrestrial basalt. Credit: Jon Taylor.{{free media}}
Cumberland Falls meteorite is an aubrite. Credit: Claire H..{{free media}}
Shallowater meteorite is an aubrite. Credit: Claire H..{{free media}}

Asteroidal achondrites, also called evolved achondrites, are so-called because they have been differentiated on a parent body. This means that their mineralogical and chemical composition was changed by melting and crystallization processes. They are divided several groups:[62]

  • HED meteorites (Vesta). They may have originated on the asteroid 4 Vesta, because their reflection spectra are very similar.[64] They are named after the initial letters of the three subgroups:
    • Howardites
    • Eucrites
    • Diogenites
  • Angrites: a rare group of achondrites consisting mostly of the mineral augite with some olivine, anorthite and troilite. The group is named for the Angra dos Reis meteorite. Angrites are basaltic rocks, often having porosity, with vesicle diameters of up to 2.5 centimetres (0.98 in). They are the oldest igneous rocks, with crystallization ages of around 4.55 billion years. By comparing the reflectance spectra of the angrites to that of several main belt asteroids, two potential parent bodies have been identified: 289 Nenetta and 3819 Robinson. Angrites could represent ejecta from Mercury, however later work has cast significant doubt upon these claims.[65]
  • Aubrites: a group of meteorites named for Aubres, a small achondrite meteorite that fell near Nyons, France, in 1836, primarily composed of the orthopyroxene enstatite, often called enstatite achondrites, with igneous origin separating them from primitive enstatite achondrites and means they originated in an asteroid. Aubrites are typically light-colored with a brownish fusion crust. Most aubrites are heavily brecciated; they are often said to look "lunar" in origin. Aubrites are primarily composed of large white crystals of the Fe-poor, Mg-rich orthopyroxene, or enstatite, with minor phases of olivine, nickel-iron metal, and troilite, indicating a magmatic formation under extremely reducing conditions. The severe brecciation of most aubrites attests to a violent history for their parent body. Since some aubrites contain chondritic xenoliths, it is likely that the aubrite parent body collided with an asteroid of “F-chondritic” composition. Comparisons of aubrite spectra to the spectra of asteroids have revealed striking similarities between the aubrite group and the E-type asteroids of the Nysa family. A small near-Earth object, 3103 Eger, is also often suggested as the parent body of the aubrites.[66]

Martian meteorites[edit | edit source]

Martian meteorites[4] are divided into three main groups, with two exceptions (see last two entries):

  • Shergottites.
  • Nakhlites.
  • Chassignites.
  • OPX martian meteorites (Allan Hills 84001).
  • Regolith/Soil samples (Northwest Africa 7034).

Enstatite chondrites[edit | edit source]

The E stands for Enstatite, H indicates a high metallic iron content of approximately 30%, and L low. The number refers to alteration.

Enstatite chondrites (also known as E-type chondrites) are a rare form of meteorite thought to comprise only about 2% of the chondrites that fall to Earth.[67] Only about 200 E-Type chondrites are currently known.[67] The majority of enstatite chondrites have either been recovered in Antarctica or have been collected by the American National Weather Association, and they tend to be high in the mineral enstatite (MgSiO3), from which they derive their name.[67]

E-type chondrites are among the most chemically reduced rocks known, with most of their iron taking the form of metal or sulfide rather than as an oxide, suggesting that they were formed in an area that lacked oxygen, probably within the orbit of Mercury.[68]

Enstatite chondrites contain sufficient hydrogen to have delivered to Earth at least three times the mass of water in its oceans.[69] Metallic Fe-Ni (iron-nickel) and Fe-bearing sulfide minerals contain nearly all of the iron in this type of meteorite. Enstatite chondrites contain a variety of unusual minerals that can only form in extremely reducing conditions, including oldhamite (CaS), niningerite (MgS), perryite (Fe-Ni silicide), and alkali sulfides (e.g., djerfisherite and caswellsilverite). All enstatite chondrites are dominantly composed of enstatite-rich chondrules plus abundant grains of metal and sulfide minerals. Dusty matrix material is uncommon and refractory inclusions are very rare. Chemically, enstatite chondrites are very low in refractory lithophile elements. Their oxygen isotopic compositions are intermediate between ordinary and carbonaceous chondrites, and are similar to rocks found on the Earth and Moon. Their lack of oxygen content may mean that they were originally formed near the center of the solar nebula that created the Solar System, possibly within the orbit of Mercury. Most enstatite chondrites have experienced thermal metamorphism on the parent asteroids and are divided into two groups:[70][71]

  • EH (high-iron) chondrites contain small chondrules (~0.2 millimetres (0.0079 in)) and high ratios of siderophile elements to silicon. Somewhat more than 10% of the rock is composed of metal grains. A diagnostic feature of EH chondrites is that the Fe-Ni metal contains ~3 wt% elemental silicon.
  • EL (low-iron) chondrites contain larger chondrules (>0.5 millimetres (0.020 in)), and low ratios of siderophile elements to silicon. Fe-Ni metal contains ~1 wt% silicon.

EH chondrites[edit | edit source]

EL chondrites[edit | edit source]

E3 Abundant chondrites[edit | edit source]

E4 Distinct chondrites[edit | edit source]

Abee meteorites[edit | edit source]

The only mass recovered from the Abee meteorite is a brecciated enstatite chondrite now on display at the American Museum of Natural History. Credit: Jon Taylor.{{free media}}

The Abee meteorite is the only example in the world of an EH4 impact-melt breccia meteorite.[72]

"Constraints are reported on the thermal history of the constituents of the Abee enstatite chondrite. From thermal experiments on laboratory-prepared alloys, and on actual samples of the meteorite, it is concluded that the metal phase of Abee cooled from above 700°C to room temperature in less than ten hours."[73]

"The early thermal history of planets [is evidenced] from meteorites."[73]

The "early thermal history of chondritic asteroids [can be] derived by 244Pu fission track thermometry."[73]

E5 Less distinct chondrites[edit | edit source]

Saint-Sauveur meteorites[edit | edit source]

Saint-Sauveur meteorite, Chondrite EH5, 14Kg, fell in 1914, two views of same specimen. Credit: Didier Descouens.{{free media}}

E6 Indistinct chondrites[edit | edit source]

E7 Melted chondrites[edit | edit source]

Ordinary chondrites[edit | edit source]

This is an image of a 700 g piece of the NWA 869 meteorite. Credit: H. Raab (Vesta).{{free media}}
This is an image of the Bruderheim meteorite. Credit: A_Meteorite_collection.jpg, derivative work by Basilicofresco.{{free media}}

Chondrites are stony meteorites that have not been modified due to melting or differentiation of the parent body.

The ordinary chondrites (sometimes called the O chondrites) are a class of stony chondritic meteorites that are by far the most numerous group and comprise about 87% of all finds.[74]

Prominent among the components present in chondrites are the enigmatic chondrules, millimeter-sized objects, most of which are rich in the silicate minerals olivine and pyroxene. Chondrites also contain refractory inclusions (including Ca-Al Inclusions), particles rich in metallic Fe-Ni and sulfides, and isolated grains of silicate minerals. The remainder of chondrites consists of fine-grained (micrometer-sized or smaller) dust, which may either be present as the matrix of the rock or may form rims or mantles around individual chondrules and refractory inclusions.

At right is a piece of the NWA 869 meteorite. "Chondrules and metal flakes can be seen on the cut and polished face of this specimen. NWA 869 is a ordinary chondrite (L4-6). ... The cut surface is about 65mm at it's widest point."[75]

The second image is of the Bruderheim (or Bruederheim) meteorite. "The Bruederheim Meteorite fell in 1960 ... Chondrules, spherical to subspherical minerals or mineral aggregates, form the most conspicuous textural features. The chondrules are in a fine to medium crystalline groundmass. This groundnass is seriate textured with the smallest grains being about 0.01 mm. in diameter. The larger grains of the groundmass are as much as 0.3 mm. in diameter. They are generally anhedral and have forms that range fron angular to subrounded."[76] The Bruederheim meteorite is approximately 39.55 % SiO2, 13.89 % FeO+Fe2O3 as FeO, and 24.69 % MgO by weight.[76]

Most meteorites that are recovered on Earth are chondrites: 86.2% of witnessed falls are chondrites,[77] as are the overwhelming majority of meteorites that are found. There are currently over 27,000 chondrites in the world's collections. The largest individual stone ever recovered, weighing 1770 kg, was part of the Jilin meteorite shower of 1976. Chondrite falls range from single stones to extraordinary showers consisting of thousands of individual stones, as occurred in the Holbrook fall of 1912, where an estimated 14,000 stones rained down on northern Arizona.

The ordinary chondrites are thought to have originated from three parent asteroids, with the fragments making up the H chondrite, L chondrite and LL chondrite groups respectively.[78]

A probable parent body of the H chondrites (comprising about 46% of the ordinary chondrites) is 6 Hebe, but its spectrum is dissimilar due to what is likely a metal impact melt component.[79]

The ordinary chondrites comprise three mineralogically and chemically distinct groupings that differ in the amount of total iron, of iron metal and iron oxide in the silicates:[80]

  • The H chondrites have the Highest total iron, high metal, but lower iron oxide (Fa) in the silicates
  • The L chondrites have Lower total iron, lower metal, but higher iron oxide (Fa) in the silicates
  • The LL chondrites have Low total iron and Low metal, but the highest iron oxide content (Fa) in the silicates.

Carbonaceous chondrites[edit | edit source]

A slice of the Allende meteorite shows circular chondrules. Credit: Shiny Things.{{free media}}

A slice from the 4.5-billion-year-old Allende meteorite. This rock was formed along with the solar system. The C chondrites represent only a small proportion (4.6%)[77] of meteorite falls.

C chondrites contain a high proportion of carbon (up to 3%), which is in the form of graphite, carbonates and organic compounds, including amino acids, water and minerals that have been modified by the influence of water.[81]

Some famous carbonaceous chondrites are: the Allende meteorite, Murchison meteorite, Orgueil meteorite, Ivuna meteorite, Murray meteorite, Tagish Lake meteorite, Sutter's Mill meteorite and Winchcombe meteorite.

CB chondrites[edit | edit source]

Gujba meteorite is a bencubbinite found in Nigeria, polished slice, 4.6 x 3.8 cm, note the nickel-iron chondrules, which have been age-dated to 4.5627 billion years. Credit: .{{free media}}

The group takes its name from the most representative member: Bencubbin (Australia). Although these chondrites contain over 50% nickel-iron metal, they are not classified as mesosiderites because their mineralogical and chemical properties are strongly associated with CR chondrites.[82]

CH chondrites[edit | edit source]

"H" stands for "high metal" because CH chondrites may contain up to as much as 40% of metal.[63] That makes them one of the most metal-rich of any of the chondrite groups, second only to the CB chondrites and some ungrouped chondrites such as NWA 12273. The first meteorite discovered was ALH 85085. Chemically, these chondrites are closely related to CR and CB groups. All specimens of this group belong only to petrologic types 2 or 3.[82]

CI chondrites[edit | edit source]

This group was named after the Ivuna meteorite (Tanzania), have chemical compositions that are close to that measured in the solar photosphere (aside from gaseous elements, and elements such as lithium which are underrepresented in the Sun's photosphere by comparison to their abundance in CI chondrites).

Six CI chondrites have been observed to fall: Ivuna, Orgueil, Alais, Tonk, Revelstoke, and Flensburg.

CI1 chondrites[edit | edit source]

The Orgueil meteorite fell on May 14, 1864, a few minutes after 20:00 local time, near Orgueil in southern France. About 20 stones fell over an area of 5-10 square kilometres.

CK chondrites[edit | edit source]

The group takes its name from Mighei chondrite (Ukraine), but the most famous member is the extensively studied Murchison meteorite meteorite. Many falls of this type have been observed and CM chondrites are known to contain a rich mix of complex organic compounds such as amino-acids and purine/pyrimidine nucleobases.[82][83][84] CM chondrite famous falls:

CM chondrites[edit | edit source]

Murchison meteorite is at the The National Museum of Natural History (Washington). Credit: Basilicofresco.{{free media}}

Amino acids in Ivuna and Orgueil were present at much lower concentrations than in CM chondrites (~30%), and that they had a distinct composition high in β-alanine, glycine, γ-Gamma-Aminobutyric acid (ABA), and beta-Aminobutyric acid (β-ABA) but low in 2-Aminoisobutyric acid|α-aminoisobutyric acid (AIB) and isovaline.[86]

Most of the organic compound carbon in CI and CM carbonaceous chondrites is an insoluble complex material. That is similar to the description for kerogen. A kerogen-like material is also in the ALH84001 Martian meteorite (an achondrite).

The CM meteorite Murchison meteorite has over 70 extraterrestrial amino acids and other compounds including carboxylic acids, hydroxy carboxylic acids, sulphonic and phosphonic acids, aliphatic, aromatic and polar hydrocarbons, fullerenes, heterocycles, carbonyl compounds, alcohols, amines and amides.

CO chondrites[edit | edit source]

The Ornans meteorite observed in France in 1868. Credit: Eunostos.{{free media}}

The group takes its name from Ornans meteorite observed in France in 1868.[87] The chondrule size is only about 0.15 mm on average. They are all of petrologic type 3.

  • 221 Eos – an asteroid from the asteroid belt and one of the likely parent bodies of the CO meteorites.

Famous CO chondrite falls:

Famous finds:

  • Dar al Gani 749

CR chondrites[edit | edit source]

The group takes its name from Cento Renazzo (Italy). The best parent body candidate is 2 Pallas.[82]

Current usage of type 1 is simply to indicate meteorites that have experienced extensive aqueous alteration, to the point that most of their olivine and pyroxene have been altered to hydrous phases. This alteration took place at temperatures of 50 to 150 °C, so type 1 chondrites were warm, but not hot enough to experience thermal metamorphism.

Chondrites have experienced extensive aqueous alteration, but still contain recognizable chondrules as well as primary, unaltered olivine and/or pyroxene. The fine-grained matrix is generally fully hydrated and minerals inside chondrules may show variable degrees of hydration. This alteration probably occurred at temperatures below 20 °C, and again, these meteorites are not thermally metamorphosed. Almost all CM and CR chondrites are petrologic type 2; with the exception of some ungrouped carbonaceous chondrites, no other chondrites are type 2.

CV chondrites[edit | edit source]

NWA 3118 is shown. Credit: Mario Müller.{{free media}}

CV chondrites observed falls:

CV3 chondrites[edit | edit source]

C ungrouped[edit | edit source]

The most famous members:

  • Tagish Lake meteorites
  • Tarda meteorites

Hypatia[edit | edit source]

The image shows a sample of the Hypatia stone. Credit: Romano Serra.{{fairuse}}

Hypatia is a small stone found in Egypt in 1996, which may be the first known specimen of a comet nucleus on Earth, although defying physically-accepted models for hypervelocity processing of organic material.[88][89]

Hypatia was discovered in December 1996 at 25°20′N 25°30′E / 25.333°N 25.5°E / 25.333; 25.5, directly in proximity to a dark, slag-like glassy material that was interpreted to be a form of Libyan desert glass.[90]

Although its status as an extraterrestrial rock is widely accepted, Hypatia is not officially classified as a true meteorite specimen by the Meteoritical Society due to its small size, where the original sample was cut apart and sent to multiple labs for study, reducing its original size of approximately 30 grams to about four grams.[91]

Hypatia may be a relict fragment of the hypothetical impacting body assumed to have produced the chemically-dissimilar Libyan desert glass.[90] If this association holds, Hypatia may have impacted Earth approximately 28 million years ago.[92] Its unusual chemistry has prompted further speculation that Hypatia may predate the formation of the Solar System.[89]

Compounds including polyaromatic hydrocarbons and silicon carbide associated with a previously-unknown nickel phosphide compound have been found, ratios of silicon to carbon are anti-correlated to terrestrial averages, or those of major planets like Mars or Venus, but some samples of interstellar dust overlap Hypatia distributions, although Hypatia's elemental chemistry also overlaps some terrestrial distributions.[93]

"The stone has a bimodal matrix. Type 1 is essentially devoid of elements heavier than oxygen, whereas matrix 2 shows a unique, consistent element abundance pattern from aluminum to zinc, up to a sum of 4.5 wt%. Fe is dominant and Si markedly depleted, with a CI-chondrite normalized Si/Fe ratio of c. 0.1. Element abundance ratios to Fe show several correlations, with one group (Al, Si, K, Ca, Ti and Cu) being negatively correlated to another one (P, S and Ni)."[94]

The "amount of silicon in the Hypatia stone was extremely low — less than 1% of what would be expected for an object that formed in our solar system. Likewise, the levels of chromium, manganese, iron, sulfur, copper and vanadium were not typical of inner solar system material."[95]

"We found a consistent pattern of trace element abundances that is completely different from anything in the solar system, primitive or evolved. Objects in the asteroid belt and meteors don't match this, either. So next, we looked outside the solar system."[96]

The "composition of the Hypatia stone ruled out [interstellar bands of dust in the Milky Way, a red giant star and even a Type II supernova, which occurs when a massive star runs out of fuel, collapses, then explodes.]"[95]

"In six of the 15 elements, proportions were between 10 and 100 times higher than the ranges predicted by theoretical models for supernovas of type Ia. These are the elements aluminum, phosphorus, chlorine, potassium, copper and zinc."[96]

"Perhaps equally important, it shows that an individual anomalous 'parcel' of dust from outer space could actually be incorporated in the solar nebula that our solar system was formed from, without being fully mixed in. This goes against the conventional view that dust which our solar system was formed from was thoroughly mixed."[96]

"The carbonaceous, diamondiferous stone named “Hypatia” represents a clear exception to the homogeneous chemistry of primitive solar system objects. The c. 30 g stone was found in 1996 by Dr. Aly Barakat of the Egyptian Mineral Resources Authority in the Libyan Desert Glass (LDG) area in southwest Egypt (Barakat, 2005). Its extraterrestrial origin was demonstrated via its 40Ar/36Ar ratio, which is much lower than that of Earth's atmosphere (Kramers et al., 2013)."[94]

"He and Xe isotope compositions [...] strongly resemble those of the “Q” noble gas component hosted in the carbonaceous matter of chondrites (Ozima et al., 1998). Further, a significant 129
excess was found in Hypatia (Avice et al., 2015). 129
is the radiogenic daughter of extinct 129
(half-life 1.57 × 107 yrs.) and 129
excesses are common in chondritic meteorites, where the I-Xe chronometer has been extensively used to constrain timescales of processes within the first 4 × 107 yrs. of solar nebula history (Brazzle et al., 1999)."[94]

"Deuteron nuclear reaction analysis (D-NRA) of the bulk matrix yielded atomic percentages of 74.5–77% C, 0.5–1.5% N and 22–25% O (Kramers et al., 2013). A petrographic study (Belyanin et al., 2018) demonstrated the ubiquitous presence of microdiamonds, thought to be shock-related, as well as one graphite- and multiple silicon carbide grains, the latter in association with a Ni phosphide compound not previously described, but no silicate minerals."[94]

H chondrites[edit | edit source]

Weston meteorite is an H chondrite that fell in 1807. Credit: Claire H..{{free media}}

The H type ordinary chondrites are the most common type of meteorite, accounting for approximately 40% of all those catalogued, 46% of the ordinary chondrites, and 44% of the chondrites.[97]

A probable parent body for this group is the S-type asteroid 6 Hebe, with less likely candidates being 3 Juno and 7 Iris.[98] It is supposed that these meteorites arise from impacts onto small near-Earth asteroids broken off from 6 Hebe in the past, rather than originating from 6 Hebe directly.

The H chondrites have very similar trace element abundances and Oxygen isotope ratios to the IIE iron meteorites, making it likely that they both originate from the same parent body.

Their high iron abundance is about 25–31% by weight. Over half of this is present in metallic form, making these meteorites strongly magnetic despite the stony chondritic appearance.

The most abundant minerals are bronzite]] (an orthopyroxene), and olivine. Characteristic is the fayalite (Fa) content of the olivine of 16 to 20 mol%. They contain also 15–19% of nickel-iron metal and about 5% of troilite. The majority of these meteorites have been significantly metamorphosed, with over 40% being in petrologic class 5, most of the rest in classes 4 and 6. Only a few (about 2.5%) are of the largely unaltered petrologic class 3.

H4 chondrites[edit | edit source]

Marília is an H chondrite meteorite that fell to Earth on October 5, 1971, in Marília, São Paulo, Brazil. Credit: Gabisfunny.{{free media}}

It is classified as H4-ordinary chondrite.[99]

H6 chondrites[edit | edit source]

Aarhus meteorite pieces are from the find on 19 October 1951. Credit: Hanne Teglhus.{{fairuse}}

The meteor split just before the otherwise undramatic impact and two pieces were recovered: Aarhus I (at 300g) and Aarhus II (at 420g), with Aarhus I found in the small woodland of Riis Skov, just a few minutes after impact.[100][101]

L chondrites[edit | edit source]

A 700 g individual is from the NWA 869 meteorite. Credit: H. Raab.{{free media}}

The L type ordinary chondrites are the second most common group of meteorites, accounting for approximately 35% of all those catalogued, and 40% of the ordinary chondrites.[102]

Their name comes from their relatively low iron abundance, with respect to the H chondrites, which are about 20–25% iron by weight.

Characteristic is the fayalite content (Fa) in olivine of 21 to 25 mol%. About 4–10% iron–nickel is found as a free metal, making these meteorites magnetic, but not as strongly as the H chondrites.

"A zircon U-Pb date of 467.50±0.28 Ma from a distinct bed within the meteorite-bearing interval of southern Sweden that, combined with published cosmic-ray exposure ages of co-occurring meteoritic material, provides a precise age for the L chondrite breakup at 468.0±0.3 Ma."[103]

Many of the L chondrite meteors may have their origin in the Ordovician meteor event, radioisotope dated with uranium–lead at around 467.50±0.28 million years ago. Compared to other chondrites, a large proportion of the L chondrites have been heavily shocked, which is taken to imply that the parent body was catastrophically disrupted by a large impact. This impact has been dated via cosmic ray exposure at around 468.0±0.3 million years ago.[103][104] Earlier argon dating placed the event at around 470±6 million years ago.[105][106]

The most abundant minerals are olivine and hypersthene (an orthopyroxene), as well as iron–nickel alloy and troilite. Chromite, sodium-rich feldspar and calcium phosphates occur in minor amounts. The parent body/bodies for this group are not known, but plausible suggestions include 433 Eros and 8 Flora, or the Flora family as a whole.

433 Eros has been found to have a similar spectrum, while several pieces of circumstantial evidence for the Flora family exist: (1) the Flora family is thought to have formed about 1,000 to 500 million years ago; (2) the Flora family lies in a region of the asteroid belt that contributes strongly to the meteorite flux at Earth; (3) the Flora family consists of S-type asteroids, whose composition is similar to that of chondrite meteorites; and (4) the Flora family parent body was over 100 kilometres (62 mi) in diameter.

L1 chondrites[edit | edit source]

L2 chondrites[edit | edit source]

L3 chondrites[edit | edit source]

Julesburg meteorites are L3 chondrites.

L4 chondrites[edit | edit source]

Kemer and Saratov meteorites are L4 chondrites.

L5 chondrites[edit | edit source]

20.4 gram partial slice of the historic witnessed fall "Homestead". Credit: Jon Taylor.{{free media}}

This is a nice specimen with fusion crust along one edge. This slice was taken from a 450 gram fragment that resided in the American Museum of Natural History for over a century. The fall took place on Friday February 12, 1875 in the small town of Homestead, Iowa. At about 10:30 a brilliant fireball lit up the cold dark sky. The flash was followed by loud rumbling sounds as the meteoroid exploded over the snowy countryside. The first meteorite fragment was found two miles west of Homestead by a woman named Sarah Sherlock. The stone weighed seven pounds and six ounces. The largest mass weighed 74 lbs and was not discovered until spring. It along with a 48 pound mass were buried 2 feet in the ground. In total approximately 227kgs of this attractive L5 brecciated chondrite were discovered.

L6 chondrites[edit | edit source]

Reverse side of the Berduc slice shows both the beautiful brecciation and fresh fusion crust of this veined L6 chondrite. Credit: Jon Taylor.{{free media}}

Both the beautiful brecciation and fresh fusion crust of this veined L6 chondrite. 6.8 gram full slice. Date 9 August 2011, 08:27:57

L7 chondrites[edit | edit source]

L7 chondrites: PAT 91501 and LEW 88663 meteorites.

LL chondrites[edit | edit source]

The Paragould Meteorite is on display in Mullins Library at the University of Arkansas in Fayettville, Arkansas. Credit: The stuart.{{free media}}

The LL chondrites are a group of stony meteorites, the least abundant group of the ordinary chondrites, accounting for about 10–11% of observed ordinary-chondrite falls and 8–9% of all meteorite falls.

The composition of the Chelyabinsk meteorite is that of a LL chondrite meteorite. The material makeup of Itokawa, the asteroid visited by the Hayabusa spacecraft which landed on it and brought particles back to Earth also proved to be type LL chondrite.

They contain 19–22% total iron and only 0.3–3% metallic iron. That means that most of the iron is present as iron oxide (FeO) in the silicates; olivine contains 26 to 32 mol% fayalite (Fa). The most abundant minerals are hypersthene (a pyroxene) and olivine. Other minerals include Fe–Ni, troilite (FeS), feldspar or feldspathic glass, chromite, and phosphates.

LL chondrites contain the largest chondrules of the ordinary chondrite groups, averaging around 1 millimetre (0.039 in) diameter.

The LL group includes many of the most primitive ordinary chondrites, including the well-studied Semarkona (type 3.0) chondrite. However, most LL chondrites have been thermally metamorphosed to petrologic types 5 and 6, meaning that their minerals are homogeneous in composition and chondrule borders are difficult to discern.

Cryometeorites[edit | edit source]

A large hailstone (clear and white) with concentric rings is shown. Credit: ERZ.
The image shows small hail that has been fractures to show internal structure. Credit: Erbe, Pooley: USDA, ARS, EMU.
On April 13, 2004, a blanket of hail fell during a storm in Cerro El Pital, El Salvador. Credit: Wanakoo.
The image captures a hailstorm in progress in Bogotá, D.C., Colombia, on March 3, 2006. Credit: Ju98 5.
This is a very large hailstone from the NOAA Photo Library. Credit: NOAA Legacy Photo; OAR/ERL/Wave Propagation Laboratory.
This hailstone was four inches in diameter and weighed seven ounces. Credit: Archival Photography by Steve Nicklas, NOS, NGS.
As of June 22, 2003, this is the largest hailstone ever recovered. Credit: NOAA.
This is a large hailstone, approximately 133 mm (5 1/4 inches) in diameter, that fell in Harper, Kansas on May 14, 2004. Credit: National Weather Service - Wichita, Kansas.
This is a record-setting hailstone that fell in Vivian, South Dakota on July 23, 2010. Credit: NWS Aberdeen, SD.
Graupel is shown encasing an unseen snow crystal. Credit: Erbe, Pooley: USDA, ARS, EMU.
Rime occurs on both ends of a columnar snow crystal. Credit: Brian0918.
The image shows ice pellets aka sleet in North America, with a United States penny for scale. Credit: Runningonbrains.
Rime ice is shown after deposition on a window. Credit: Ws47.
This image is a satellite photo of lake-effect snow bands near the Korean Peninsula. Credit: NASA.

Hail is a form of solid [water] precipitation. It consists of balls or irregular lumps of ice, each of which is referred to as a hailstone.[107] Unlike graupel, which is made of rime, and ice pellets, which are smaller and translucent, hailstones – on Earth – consist mostly of water ice and measure between 5 and 200 millimetres (0.20 and 7.87 in) in diameter.

The METAR reporting code for hail 5 mm (0.20 in) or greater is GR, while smaller hailstones and graupel are coded GS. ... Hail has a diameter of 5 millimetres (0.20 in) or more.[108] Hailstones can grow to 15 centimetres (6 in) and weigh more than 0.5 kilograms (1.1 lb).[109]

Unlike ice pellets, hailstones are layered and can be irregular and clumped together.

A cross-section through a large hailstone shows an onion-like structure. This means the hailstone is made of thick and translucent layers, alternating with layers that are thin, white and opaque.

The image at left shows a blanket of hail precipitated on the ground at Cerro El Pital, El Savador. "Cerro El Pital se encuentra a 12 kilómetros de La Palma, con una altura de 2730 msnm es el punto más alto del territorio Salvadoreño. Es una montaña en medio de un bosque nebuloso que suele tener una temperatura aproximada de 10 ºC. El 13 de abril de 2004, las temperaturas bajaron tanto que el cerro fue cubierto por una escarcha de hielo que causó conmoción entre los pobladores, atribuyendo el fenómeno a una supuesta "nevada"."

The third image at right shows a hailstone that fell at Washington, D. C., on May 26, 1953, that was 4 in in diameter and weighed 7 oz.

In the fourth image at right is the largest hailstone ever recovered in the United States as of June 22, 2003. This hailstone fell in Aurora, Nebraska. It has a 7-inch (17.8 cm) diameter and an approximate circumference of 18.75 inches.[110]

The next hailstone image is one, approximately 133 mm (5 1/4 inches) in diameter, that fell in Harper, Kansas on May 14, 2004.

After 2003, another record-setting hailstone fell in Vivian, South Dakota, on July 23, 2010. Its diameter is 8 inches with a weight of 1 pound 15 ounces.

Terminal velocity of hail, or the speed at which hail is falling when it strikes the ground, varies by the diameter of the hail stones. A hail stone of 1 cm (0.39 in) in diameter falls at a rate of 9 metres per second (20 mph), while stones the size of 8 centimetres (3.1 in) in diameter fall at a rate of 48 metres per second (110 mph). Hail stone velocity is dependent on the size of the stone, friction with air it is falling through, the motion of wind it is falling through, collisions with raindrops or other hail stones, and melting as the stones fall through a warmer atmosphere.[111]

A megacryometeor is a very large chunk of ice which, despite sharing many textural, hydro-chemical and isotopic features detected in large hailstones, is formed under unusual atmospheric conditions which clearly differ from those of the cumulonimbus cloud scenario (i.e. clear-sky conditions). They are sometimes called huge hailstones, but do not need to form in thunderstorms. Jesus Martinez-Frias, a planetary geologist at the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid, pioneered research into megacryometeors in January 2000 after ice chunks weighing up to 6.6 pounds (3.0 kg) rained on Spain out of cloudless skies for ten days.

Graupel ... also called soft hail or snow pellets)[112] refers to precipitation that forms when supercooled droplets of water are collected and freeze on a falling snowflake, forming a 2–5 mm (0.079–0.197 in) ball of rime.

Strictly speaking, graupel is not the same as hail or ice pellets, although it is sometimes referred to as small hail. However, the World Meteorological Organization defines small hail as snow pellets encapsulated by ice, a precipitation halfway between graupel and hail.[113]

The frozen droplets on the surface of rimed crystals are hard to resolve and the topography of a graupel particle is not easy to record with a light microscope because of the limited resolution and depth of field in the instrument. However, observations of snow crystals with a low-temperature scanning electron microscope (LT-SEM) clearly show cloud droplets measuring up to 50 μm (0.00197 in) on the surface of the crystals. The rime has been observed on all four basic forms of snow crystals, including plates, dendrites, columns and needles. As the riming process continues, the mass of frozen, accumulated cloud droplets obscures the identity of the original snow crystal, thereby giving rise to a graupel particle.

Graupel commonly forms in high altitude climates and is both denser and more granular than ordinary snow, due to its rimed exterior. Macroscopically, graupel resembles small beads of polystyrene. The combination of density and low viscosity makes fresh layers of graupel unstable on slopes, and layers of 20–30 cm (7.9–11.8 in) present a high risk of dangerous slab avalanches. In addition, thinner layers of graupel falling at low temperatures can act as ball bearings below subsequent falls of more naturally stable snow, rendering them also liable to avalanche.[114] Graupel tends to compact and stabilise ("weld") approximately one or two days after falling, depending on the temperature and the properties of the graupel.[115]

Ice pellets (also referred to as sleet by the United States National Weather Service[116]) are a form of precipitation consisting of small, translucent balls of ice. Ice pellets are usually smaller than hailstones[117] and are different from graupel, which is made of rime, or rain and snow mixed, which is soft. Ice pellets often bounce when they hit the ground, and generally do not freeze into a solid mass unless mixed with freezing rain. The METAR code for ice pellets is PL.

Hard rime is a white ice that forms when the water droplets in fog freeze to the outer surfaces of objects. It is often seen on trees atop mountains and ridges in winter, when low-hanging clouds cause freezing fog. This fog freezes to the windward (wind-facing) side of tree branches, buildings, or any other solid objects, usually with high wind velocities and air temperatures between −2 and −8 °C (28.4 and 17.6 °F).

Snow is precipitation in the form of flakes of crystalline water ice that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless subjected to external pressure. Snowflakes come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Types that fall in the form of a ball due to melting and refreezing, rather than a flake, are known as hail, ice pellets or snow grains.

Mercury[edit | edit source]

NWA 7325 is a unique meteorite. Credit: Stefan Ralew /

"NWA 7325 is actually a group of 35 meteorite samples discovered in 2012 in Morocco. They are ancient, with Irving and his team dating the rocks to an age of about 4.56 billion years."[118]

"NWA 7325 has a lower magnetic intensity — the magnetism passed from a cosmic body's magnetic field into a rock — than any other rock yet found, Irving said. Data sent back from NASA's Messenger spacecraft currently in orbit around Mercury shows that the planet's low magnetism closely resembles that found in NWA 7325, Irving said."[118]

"NWA 7325 has olivine in it that is insanely magnesium-rich. Iron and magnesium are two elements that are almost always found together in rocks; the ions they make have the same size and charge so they happily occupy the same positions in crystal lattices. It's weird to have a rock that is so dominantly magnesium-rich. Mercury's surface rocks are known (thanks to MESSENGER) to be unusually low in iron."[119]

"NWA 7325's oxygen isotope ratios do not match any known meteorites from any other planet-size body. In fact, they're not particularly similar to much of anything that we've measured oxygen isotope ratios for."[119]

"The ratios of Al/Si (0.224) and Mg/Si (0.332) plus the very low Fe content of NWA 7325 are consistent with the compositions of surface rocks on Mercury [6], but the Ca/Si ratio (0.582) is far too high. However, since NWA 7325 is evidently a plagioclase cumulate (and presumably excavated from depth), it may not match surface rocks on its parent body. The abundance of diopside rather than enstatite might be consistent with some earlier spectral observations of Mercury [7]."[120]

"[I]t's about 23 times harder to get a rock from Mercury to Earth than it is from Mars to Earth. Given that we've got more than 70 known Mars meteorites in our collections, that means we ought to have found 3 (give or take a couple) Mercury meteorites by now."[119]

Meteorites originating from Mercury can be called hermiometeorites.

Venus[edit | edit source]

While there is little or no water on Venus, there is a phenomenon which is quite similar to snow. The Magellan probe imaged a highly reflective substance at the tops of Venus's highest mountain peaks which bore a strong resemblance to terrestrial snow. This substance arguably formed from a similar process to snow, albeit at a far higher temperature. Too volatile to condense on the surface, it rose in gas form to cooler higher elevations, where it then fell as precipitation. The identity of this substance is not known with certainty, but speculation has ranged from elemental tellurium to lead sulfide (galena).[121]

Earth[edit | edit source]

This is an aerial view of the Barringer Meteor Crater about 69 km east of Flagstaff, Arizona USA. Credit: D. Roddy, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
This is a Landsat image of the Barringer Meteor Crater from space. Credit: National Map Seamless Server, NASA Earth Observatory.
This is an image of the Canyon Diablo iron meteorite (IIIAB) 2,641 grams. Credit: Geoffrey Notkin, Aerolite Meteorites of Tucson, Geoking42.
The Holsinger meteorite is the largest discovered fragment of the meteorite that created Meteor Crater and it is exhibited in the crater visitor center. Credit: Mariordo Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz.

In the image at left is an aerial view of the Barringer Meteor Crater about 69 km east of Flagstaff, Arizona USA. Although similar to the aerial view of the Soudan crater, the Barringer Meteor Crater appears angular at the farthest ends rather than round.

Meteor Crater is a meteorite impact crater approximately 43 miles (69 km) east of Flagstaff, near Winslow in the northern Arizona desert of the United States. Because the US Department of the Interior Division of Names commonly recognizes names of natural features derived from the nearest post office, the feature acquired the name of "Meteor Crater" from the nearby post office named Meteor.[122] The site was formerly known as the Canyon Diablo Crater, and fragments of the meteorite are officially called the Canyon Diablo Meteorite. Scientists refer to the crater as Barringer Crater in honor of Daniel Barringer, who was first to suggest that it was produced by meteorite impact.[123]

From space the crater appears almost like a square. The image at right has a resolution of 2 meters per pixel, and illumination is from the right. Layers of exposed limestone and sandstone are visible just beneath the crater rim, as are large stone blocks excavated by the impact.

The Holsinger meteorite is the largest discovered fragment of the meteorite that created Meteor Crater and it is exhibited in the crater visitor center.

The Canyon Diablo meteorite comprises many fragments of the asteroid that impacted at Barringer Crater (Meteor Crater), Arizona, USA. Meteorites have been found around the crater rim, and are named for nearby Canyon Diablo, which lies about three to four miles west of the crater.

There are fragments in the collections of museums around the world including the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. The biggest fragment ever found is the Holsinger Meteorite, weighing 639 kg, now on display in the Meteor Crater Visitor Center on the rim of the crater.

Moon[edit | edit source]

This image shows the lunar meteorite Allan Hills 81005. Credit: NASA.
Lunar breccia Apollo sample 14321 formed somewhere between 4 and 4.1 billion years ago, about 12.4 miles beneath the Earth’s crust. Credit: David A. Kring/Center for Lunar Science and Exploration.{{fairuse}}

Def. a meteorite that is known to have originated on the Moon" is called a lunar meteorite, or selenometeorite.

The meteorite called Allan Hills 81005 resembled some rocks brought back from the Moon by the Apollo program.[124]

Yamato 791197 is another lunar meteorite.

About 134 lunar meteorites have been discovered so far (as of October, 2010), perhaps representing more than 50 separate meteorite falls (i.e., many of the stones are "paired" fragments of the same meteoroid). The total mass is more than 46 kg.

Lunar origin is established by comparing the mineralogy, the chemical composition, and the isotopic composition between meteorites and samples from the Moon collected by Apollo missions.

Cosmic ray exposure history established with noble gas measurements have shown that all lunar meteorites were ejected from the Moon in the past 20 million years. Most left the Moon in the past 100,000 years.

All six of the Apollo missions on which samples were collected landed in the central nearside of the Moon, an area that has subsequently been shown to be geochemically anomalous by the Lunar Prospector mission. In contrast, the numerous lunar meteorites are likely to be random samples of the Moon and consequently provide a more representative sampling of the lunar surface than the Apollo samples. Half the lunar meteorites, for example, likely sample material from the farside of the Moon.

So far seifertite has only been found in Martian[125][126] and lunar meteorites.[127]

"A felsite clast in lunar breccia Apollo sample 14321 [arrowed in the image on the left], which has been interpreted as Imbrium ejecta, has petrographic and chemical features that are consistent with formation conditions commonly assigned to both lunar and terrestrial environments. A simple model of Imbrium impact ejecta [...] indicates a pre-impact depth of 30–70 km, i.e. near the base of the lunar crust. Results from Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry trace element analyses indicate that zircon grains recovered from this clast have positive Ce/Ce anomalies corresponding to an oxygen fugacity +2 to +4 log units higher than that of the lunar mantle, with crystallization temperatures of 771 ± 88 to 810 ± 37 °C (2σ) that are unusually low for lunar magmas. Additionally, Ti-in-quartz and zircon calculations indicate a pressure of crystallization of 6.9 ± 1.2 kbar, corresponding to a depth of crystallization of 167 ± 27 km on the Moon, contradicting ejecta modelling results. Such low-T, high-fO2, and high-P have not been observed for any other lunar clasts, are not known to exist on the Moon, and are broadly similar to those found in terrestrial magmas."[128]

"The terrestrial-like redox conditions inferred for the parental magma of these zircon grains and other accessory minerals in the felsite contrasts with the presence of Fe-metal, bulk clast geochemistry, and the Pb isotope composition of K-feldspar grains within the clast, all of which are consistent with a lunar origin."[128]

The "felsite and its zircon crystallized on Earth at a modest depth of 19 ± 3 km in the continental crust where oxidizing, low-T, fluid-rich conditions are common. Subsequently, the clast was ejected from the Earth during a large impact, entrained in the lunar regolith as a terrestrial meteorite with the evidence of reducing conditions introduced during its incorporation into the Imbrium ejecta and host breccia."[128]

Mars[edit | edit source]

This is a small sample from the NWA 2373 Meteorite. Credit: James St. John.

Roughly three-quarters of all Martian meteorites (Areiometeorites) can be classified as shergottites. "[T]he most frequent type of rock (basaltic lithologies) among all known Martian meteorites is the basaltic shergottites."[129]

"The dominant group of Martian meteorites, shergottites, are divided into two subgroups consisting of basalts and lherzolites.[130]

Almost 100 rocks are known that demonstrably come from the Planet Mars. Meteorite researchers and collectors generally refer to the Martian rocks as the SNC meteorites - the shergottites, the nakhlites, and the chassignites. Most of these Martian rocks are shergottites.

Shergottites are a group of Martian rocks named after the Shergotty Meteorite, the type example. The Shergotty Meteorite is a shergottite that was found and identified in 2004.

The first image at right shows a small sample 6 mm from the NWA 2373 Meteorite (NWA = "Northwest Africa"). The light brown-colored material is the outer weathered surface of the rock. The greenish and black speckled surface shows the crystal & mineral make-up of the rock itself. Mineral analysis performed by Theodore Bunch and James Wittke at Northern Arizona University has shown that NWA 2373 is composed principally of olivine, pigeonite & augite pyroxene, plagioclase feldspar glass (maskelynite), chromite, Ti-magnetite, chlorapatite, and trace amounts of other minerals. It looks like an ultramafic rock, but it's apparently a basaltic shergottite (also regarded as a picritic shergottite).

NWA 2373 is reportedly paired with the NWA 1068 Meteorite. Available isotopic dates on the NWA 1068 Meteorite show it formed 185 million years ago (late Amazonian, equivalent to Earth's Early Jurassic), and was ejected from the Martian surface about 2.2 million years ago (information based on cosmogenic isotope analysis).

Very light snow is known to occur at high latitudes on Mars.[131]

Asteroids[edit | edit source]

This is an image of the Cumberland Falls meteorite which is considered to be an asteroidal achondrite. Credit: Claire H..

Aubrites are a group of meteorites that are primarily composed of the orthopyroxene enstatite, and are often called enstatite achondrites. Their igneous origin separates them from primitive enstatite achondrites and means they originated in an asteroid. Aubrites are typically light-colored, and with a brownish fusion crust. Most aubrites are heavily brecciated.

Aubrites are primarily composed of large white crystals of the Fe-poor, Mg-rich orthopyroxene, or enstatite. Around this matrix, they have minor phases of olivine, nickel-iron metal, troilite, which indicate a magmatic formation under extremely reducing conditions. The severe brecciation of most aubrites attests to a violent history for their parent body. Since some aubrites contain chondritic xenoliths it is likely that the aubrite parent body collided with an asteroid of “F-chondritic” composition.

Comparisons of aubrite spectra to the spectra of asteroids have revealed striking similarities between the aubrite group and the main belt Nysian asteroid family. A small member of this asteroid family, 3103 Eger, exhibits a near-Earth orbit, and is very likely the parent body of the aubrites.

"The recent investigation of the orbital distribution of Centaurs (Emel’yanenko et al., 2005) showed that there are two dynamically distinct classes of Centaurs, a dominant group with semimajor axes a > 60 AU and a minority group with a < 60 AU."[132] "[T]he intrinsic number of such objects is roughly an order of magnitude greater than that for a<60 AU"[132].

"From the dominant group, the asteroids evolve to intersect the Earth's orbit on a median time scale of about 60 Myr."[133] "The MB group is the most numerous group of MCs. ... 50 % of the MB Mars-crossers [MCs] become ECs within 59.9 Myr and [this] contribution ... dominates the production of ECs"[133]. MB denotes the main belt of asteroids.[133] EC denotes Earth-crossing.[133]

Diameters[edit | edit source]

These are pebbles on a beach. Credit: Slomox.
This image shows a rock apparently where it fell. Credit: Sten Porse.

Def. a particle classification system based on diameter is called the Wentworth scale.

Def. a particle less than 1 micron in diameter is called a colloid.

Def. a particle less than 3.9 microns in diameter is called a clay.

Def. a particle from 3.9 to 62.5 microns in diameter called a silt.

Def. a particle less than 62.5 microns in diameter is called a mud.

Def. a particle from 62.5 microns to 2 mm in diameter is called a sand.

Def. a particle from 2 to 64 mm in diameter is called a gravel.

Def. a particle from 2 to 4 mm in diameter is called a granule.

Def. a particle from 4 to 64 mm in diameter is called a pebble.

Def. a particle from 64 to 256 mm in diameter is called a cobble.

Def. a particle [or large piece of stone] greater than 256 mm in diameter that can theoretically be moved if enough force is applied is called a boulder.

Natural sciences[edit | edit source]

The picture shows an approximately angled slice through a small portion of the Earth's crust. It is from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah. Credit: Qfl247.
This image is from a road cut through the Earth's crust on the island of Cyprus. Credit: MeanStreets.
This is a partial slice of the Esquel (meteorite) discovered in Esquel, Chubut Province, Argentina. Credit: M. Rehemtulla for the QUOI Media Group.
The photomicrographs show of a sand grain held in an amorphous matrix, in plane-polarized light on top, cross-polarized light on bottom. Scale box in mm. Credit: Qfl247.
This is a photomicrograph of a thin section of gabbro. Credit: Siim Sepp.
This photomicrograph is of a thin section of a limestone with ooids. The largest is approximately 1.2 mm in diameter. Credit: Photograph taken by Mark A. Wilson (Department of Geology, The College of Wooster).
This is a thin section with cross-polarized light through a sand-sized quartz grain of 0.13 mm diameter. Credit: Glen A. Izett, USGS.
This is a thin section of a shocked quartz grain. Credit: Martin Schmieder.

Def. the study of the origin, composition and structure of rock is called petrology.

Each rock has a location and an environment. These are recorded. Sometimes a sequence of events is connectable to a rock in a location.

Def. the scientific description and classification of rocks is called petrography.

Def. a section formed by a plane cutting through an object, usually at right angles to an axis is called a cross section.

Def. a laboratory preparation of a rock, mineral, soil, pottery, bones, or metal sample for use with a polarizing petrographic microscope, electron microscope and electron microprobe is called a thin section.

At lower left is a thin section through a sand-sized quartz grain "from the USGS-NASA Langley core showing two well-developed, intersecting sets of shock lamellae produced by the late Eocene Chesapeake Bay bolide impact. This shocked quartz grain is from the upper part of the crater-fill deposits at a depth of 820.6 ft in the core. The corehole is located at the NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, near the southwestern margin of the Chesapeake Bay impact crater."[134] "Very high pressures produced by strong shock waves cause dislocations in the crystal structure of quartz grains along preferred orientations. These dislocations appear as sets of parallel lamellae in the quartz when viewed with a petrographic microscope. Bolide impacts are the only natural process known to produce shock lamellae in quartz grains."[134]

Lower right shows another thin section in plane polarized light of a shocked quartz grain with two sets of decorated planar deformation features (PDFs) surrounded by a cryptocrystalline matrix from the Suvasvesi South impact structure, Finland.

In a specimen of shocked quartz, stishovite can be separated from quartz by applying hydrogen fluoride (HF); unlike quartz, stishovite will not react.[135]

Minute amounts of stishovite has been found within diamonds[136].

The major evidence for a volcanic origin for tektites "includes: close analogy between shaped tektites and small volcanic bombs, and between layered tektites and lava or tuff-lava flows or huge bombs; analogy between flanged tektites and volcanic bombs ablated by gasjets: long-time, multistage formation of some tektites that corresponds to wide variations in their radiometric ages; well-ordered long compositional trends (series) typical of magmatic differentiation; different compositional tektite families (subseries) comparable to different stages (phases) of the volcanic process."[137]

"As with the North American microtektite-bearing cores, all the Australasian microtektite-bearing cores containing coesite and shocked quartz also contained volcanic ash, which complicated the search."[138]

Hypotheses[edit | edit source]

  1. Passage through the Earth's magnetic field and natural electric field of magnetic meteors may cause deflection and a slowing down during flight such that collision with the Earth does not create a crater.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. McSween Jr., Harry Y. (1976). "A new type of chondritic meteorite found in lunar soil". Earth and Planetary Science Letters 31 (2): 193–9. doi:10.1016/0012-821X(76)90211-9. 
  2. Rubin, Alan E. (1997). "The Hadley Rille enstatite chondrite and its agglutinate-like rim: Impact melting during accretion to the Moon". Meteoritics & Planetary Science 32 (1): 135–41. doi:10.1111/j.1945-5100.1997.tb01248.x. 
  3. Opportunity Rover Finds an Iron Meteorite on Mars. JPL. January 19, 2005. Retrieved 2006-12-12. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 A.H. Treiman et al. (October 2000). "The SNC meteorites are from Mars". Planetary and Space Science 48 (12–14): 1213–30. doi:10.1016/S0032-0633(00)00105-7. 
  5. NASA (January 19, 2005). PIA07269: Iron Meteorite on Mars. Pasadena, California USA: NASA. Retrieved 2013-02-16. 
  6. GeUlogy (12 November 2012). Willamette iron meteorite (Tomanowos). Retrieved 2015-01-11. 
  7. Geulogy (29 November 2012). Cape York iron meteorite. Retrieved 2015-01-11. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Vagn Buchwald (October 1963). "Discovery of Cape York (Agpalilik) Iron Meteorite, Northwest Greenland". The Meteoritical Bulletin (Moscow, USSR: USRA) 10 (28). Retrieved 2015-01-11. 
  9. Jeanna Bryner (June 26, 2012). 1969 Fireball Meteorite Reveals New Ancient Mineral. LiveScience. Retrieved 2013-11-01. 
  10. Philip B. Gove, ed (1963). Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam Company. pp. 1221. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  11. Xed~enwiktionary (3 September 2004). meteor. San Francisco, California: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 26 June 2019. 
  12. Marshallsumter (September 24, 2011). meteor. San Francisco, California USA: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved 2018-01-24. 
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  17. Peter M. Millman (1961). "A report on meteor terminology". JRASC 55: 265–267. 
  18. Glossary International Meteor Organization. 2008-11-18. Retrieved 2011-09-16. 
  19. Martin Beech, Duncan Steel (September 1995). "On the Definition of the Term Meteoroid". Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 36 (3): 281–284. )
  20. Rubin, A.E.; Grossman, J.N. (January 2010). "Meteorite and meteoroid: New comprehensive definitions". Meteoritics & Planetary Science 45 (1): 114–122. doi:10.1111/j.1945-5100.2009.01009.x. )
  21. Povenmire, H. PHYSICAL DYNAMICS OF THE UPSILON PEGASID FIREBLL – EUROPEAN NETWORK 190882A. Florida Institute of Technology
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