Despite meteorites falling to the ground often throughout the Earth’s lifespan, there are still many myths some stranger than others existing around these elusive fragments from space.

 

 

  • Meteorites are radioactive
  • One common myth about meteorites is that they contain strange unusual minerals, elements that would bring Superman to his knees like Kryptonite. Meteorites do contain some elements which are slightly radioactive but they are no more radioactive than some Earth rocks.

     

    Hoba meteorite in Namibia largest known to have fallen, watch out for the radiation…or not! credit-wikimedia

    Hoba meteorite in Namibia largest known to have fallen, watch out for the radiation…or not! (Image credit:wikimedia.org)

     

    1. Meteorites are red hot when the land

     

    Meteorites can travel at speeds of up to 70km/sec, and are burning up as they travel through the Earth’s atmosphere. This entry through the atmosphere causes the outside meteorite to become heated, change shape and often leave behind a burnt fusion crust. However, whenever a meteorite finally lands on the ground it is not glowing red hot. This is because of the ablation process which occurs on entry, the hot outside layer dissipates, as the meteorite has been travelling so fast only the outside has become heated. Also the meteorite has been in space for billions of years and its core is pretty cold. As the meteorite becomes nearer to the ground it has often slowed down and cooled enough that when it lands on the ground its often just ambient temperature.

     

    Fireball streaking across the sky; red hot in sky but not on landing. credit-Wikimedia

    Fireball streaking across the sky; red hot in sky but not on landing. (Image credit: Wikimedia)

     

    1. 3.      Meteorites are uncommon

     

    Bright fireballs zooming across the sky are not something you see all the time, and events like this are spectacular and rare, but this doesn’t mean that space debris isn’t falling to Earth all of the time. The Earth is hit with roughly 40 000 tonnes of space debris, bits leftover from the Solar System formation each year. Often some of the pieces fall into the seas and oceans and those that can hit land can often be pretty small. Not all meteorites are huge. Chances are if you were to run a magnet through the contents in your house guttering you may find some micro-meteorites.

     

    image of Light_microscope_images_of_stony_cosmic_spherules

    A microscope identifies little meteorites. (image credit: Wikimedia.org)

    1. 4.      Meteorites are worth their weight in gold

     

    Meteorites can be valuable however this is not the case with every one. Larger meteorites would be more valuable than smaller pieces. Meteorites which are rarer would be of more value than typical stone meteorites. Pallasites are a rare stony-iron type of meteorite. They are distinguished by their appearance of nickel iron studded with bits of minerals such as olivine. Other meteorites from the Moon and Mars are rare. They’re thought to have landed on the Earth as meteorites due to an impact that dislodged them, these unusual meteorites very special to have in a collection. Media and hype is another way of a piece becoming valuable, I would imagine many are willing to spend some money on owning a piece of the Russian meteorite that landed earlier this year some pieces have reportedly been sold for over £7000. However, if you do perhaps stumble across an unusual piece of rock which turns out to be extra-terrestrial don’t give up the day job to live of the returns just yet!

    [Image scales gold v meteorite, Credit: Martina Redpath]

     

    1. 5.      Venus Fly Traps were brought to Earth by meteorites

     

    The Venus fly trap is a carnivorous species of planet, sharing its name with a celestial body. This plant is one of a few that traps its pray and slowly dissolves it to feed. It also hibernates in winter, requires soil with little nutrients to grow and only grows naturally within a 75 mile radius of a town in North Carolina.  It all sound rather extra-terrestrial! Makes sense then perhaps that this little myth was doing the rounds for a while that Venus Fly Traps have been suggested to have grown as a result of meteorites falling to Earth. A weird and wonderful plant but it is not from Space. Other carnivorous ancestors to the Venus Fly trap can be found around the world and there are no impact craters in Carolina.

     

    Men are from Mars, Flytraps are from...Venus? (Image credit: Wikimedia.org)

    Men are from Mars, Flytraps are from…Venus? (Image credit: Wikimedia.org)

     

    1. 6.      Meteorites are bits of asteroids

     

    Meteorites are pieces of stone and metal that fall and land on the Earth. Most meteorites come from broken pieces in the asteroid belt or bits that were left over in the formation of the Solar System. However meteorites can also land on the Earth from the Moon or Mars. Lunar meteorites share the same composition with rocks brought back from the Apollo missions. Martian meteorites have some pockets of gas trapped inside glass which is the same composition as the Martian atmosphere.

     

    Meteorite on Mars (Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell)

    Meteorite on Mars (Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell)

     

    7.      18th Century museums threw away their collections of meteorites

     

    In the 17th and 18th centuries, intellectuals began challenging faith and traditional view points in favour of a more scientific approach. During this time it is thought that many meteorites were thrown out as it was believed to be ludicrous that rocks could fall from the sky. It would have been an embarrassment to keep hold of these specimens. However, when exploring this, there is little evidence to suggest a mass removal but instead it seems a handful of European museums got rid of a few meteorites in total, not quite entire collections!

     

     

    1. Russia is intending to build a meteorite shield

     

    A modern myth but after the impact in Russia in February, It has been reported that Roscosmos, the Russian Space agency have decided to build a shield to protect them from any future danger.  The project which is fittingly called Citadel but it is not strictly a shield extending across the country. It is more of an action plan such as training for people, early warning systems and greater observations on other near earth objects. Not quite the same as President Reagan’s Cold War Star Wars initiative in the 1980s.

     

    Reagans Strategic defense intitiative to protect America from Ballistic missiles, could Russia be planning the same for Near Earth Objects? (Image credit: Wikimedia.org)

    Reagan’s Strategic Defense Intitiative to protect America from Ballistic missiles, could Russia be planning the same for Near Earth Objects? (Image credit: Wikimedia.org)

     

     

    1. Meteorites have brought alien life to Earth

     

    A popular idea perhaps more likely to be expected in the realms of Science fiction has appeared in a paper published at the beginning of this year. In this paper, the authors claimed to have analysed a meteorite that landed in Sri Lanka in December 2012 and discovered that is contained fossilized diatoms (one-celled phytoplankton.)  Therefore they suggest this proves that life was brought to Earth via space debris. However, when analysed further despite contamination being ruled out by the authors, the meteorite was found on the ground and the diatoms have been identified in great shape and the fresh water kind not fossilized at all. Not therefore concrete evidence of Panspermia.

     

    Image fossilized bacteria on Mars…- Credit-http://journalofcosmology.com/JOC21/PolonnaruwaRRRR.pdf

    Fossilized bacteria from Mars? (Image credit: http://journalofcosmology.com/JOC21/PolonnaruwaRRRR.pdf)

     

    1. Meteorites always create a huge crater
    the Barringer Meteor crater cause confusion with Enlightenment scholars?, Credit: Wikimedia

    The Barringer Meteor Crater  (Image credit: Wikimedia.org)

     

     

    Craters like the Barringer Meteor crater in near Flagstaff, Arizona is the result of a meteorite impact with Earth. The crater is 1.2km wide and is thought to have been formed 50 000 years ago. Fragments of iron meteorites have been recovered, but they are small in comparison to the size of crater as most of the meteorite would have burnt up on entry.  On the other hand many other meteorites fall to the ground and leave a hole no bigger than the meteorite itself, like the Bovedy meteorite which landed in Northern Ireland in 1969. To identify the crater a white flag was left sticking out of the ground marking the site of impact.

                                                                                                       

    (Article by Martina Redpath, Education Support Officer)


    21 Comments

    Jen · June 28, 2018 at 21:38

    Hi are meteoritrocks harmful is you touch then

      admin · June 29, 2018 at 06:51

      No, they’re not. By the time they reach the ground they will have cooled, if any fragments are left.

      admin · July 3, 2018 at 10:34

      Hi Jen, thank you for your comment. No meteorites are not harmful if you touch them, even if they have just fallen from the sky. The meteorites will be cold when they hit the Earth as they cool down in the Earth’s atmosphere. I hope this answers your question.

    Steve · March 21, 2018 at 17:08

    I have been collecting small metallic particles in my rain down spout with a strong magnate. How can I distinguish a micrometeorite from fly-ash and other anthropogenic material?

      admin · March 22, 2018 at 10:11

      Hi Steve, thanks for the comment. What I would suggest is taking what you have to your local Museum or University. They would have the equipment and technology to help identify what you have. This is the advice we give to anyone who would come into our facility too. I hope this helps.

    Ramanuj · March 12, 2018 at 12:54

    Amazing information really helped me a lot..!

    Sheila Cassidy · August 3, 2016 at 18:36

    Hi Admin, I found a meteorite in my back garden earlier this year. It is similar to the top picture, only larger. It is heavier than it looks. It is a little magnetic, could you please advise me as to where I can have it authenticated. I live in Belfast. I would be grateful for any information you could give me.
    Kind Regards
    Sheila Cassidy.

      admin · August 4, 2016 at 09:42

      Dear Sheila, I’m sorry to say that we do not have a geologist on site anymore, so the easiest thing thing you could do is call the Ulster Museum (Link) and ask if their geology department could look at it. I hope they can help.

    karen · April 24, 2016 at 19:22

    Is there any way to authenticate the meteorite locally?
    Is there an expedition process available?

      admin · April 25, 2016 at 10:29

      Dear Karen, thank you for your question. I would suggest you contact a museum or college with a geology department for help with this.

        Marita · June 16, 2016 at 11:34

        Hi admin is meteorites stones can be look like a flower? Is it growing ?coz I saw one but no one can tell exactly what kind of stone since it is growing..

          admin · June 16, 2016 at 12:15

          Dear Marita, thank you for your question but I am sorry to say that I do not know you saw. Meteorites do not grow and do not look like flowers.

    ryan curran · June 30, 2015 at 15:52

    My son found a meteorite rock like yesterday. In sion mills strabane. Its passed the magnet test and ceramic test. Its 105 g in weight and 2 inch wide and 3 an half inch long. It has silvery things threw it. Nt sure if it is one or not.

      admin · July 14, 2015 at 08:37

      Dear Ryan, thanks for telling us about your son’s interesting find. Your best plan to authenticate it as a meteorite would be to contact the Ulster Museum.

    mark · November 10, 2014 at 01:25

    I found a meteorite back in mid June that is in 2 pieces . One is bigger than a golf ball And the other as big as a quarter.. They are very heavy and dense and they are made of nickel iron.. For the right price I would be willing to sell them..

      admin · November 10, 2014 at 09:15

      Sorry, although your discovery is interesting, this is not a sales site.

    robert t · September 28, 2014 at 13:48

    i found a glass glass meteorite ,the color is a very clear amber, that apparently fell about 2 weeks ago. the weight is 1774 grams it fell in cabarrus county nc. there is a trace in it . would it be valuable?

      admin · September 29, 2014 at 09:04

      I’m afraid it does not sound as though the object you have found is a meteorite. Glass meteorites are completely unknown. If you want to send us a picture of your find we will try to identify it. (Link to contact details)

    Padica Phil · July 4, 2014 at 09:18

    A stone fell last month about 10th June 2014 in Eastern part of Uganda with the following properties:-
    1. It melts sugar when poured on it
    2. the room that it is kept is warm and one can sweat
    3.It is about 30cm wide x 70cm long and about 10cm thick and weighs about 60kgs
    4. At close range of ear one can hear some sound it water from it
    5. It is like ordinary rock
    6. At fulling time it was seen with bright colours like rainbow.

    (Telephone contact details removed. Please do not include these-ADMIN)

      George · November 20, 2014 at 20:29

      Is it very common to test meteorites by pouring sugar on them?

        admin · November 20, 2014 at 20:38

        Sorry but we’ve never heard of anyone doing that!

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