Astronomy

The three Types of Meteors



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A meteor is just a scientific term for what people commonly know of as shooting stars. They are pieces of rock, minerals, silcates, metals, and dust that heat up due to the friction of the earth’s atmosphere. The friction produces the tail or streak that is associated with shooting stars. They also differ from meteorites because they have not yet struck the earth’s surface.  While they may all look the same as a shooting star, meteors have three distinct groups which are the stony, iron, and stony-iron meteors.

Stony Meteors

The largest group of meteor is the stone meteor and as the name suggests, it is primarily composed of stone and also some dust. These are the most common type of meteor as about 90% of all meteors are stone meteors. Stone meteors were once the outer crust of a planet or of an asteroid. Interestingly enough, the stone meteorites are very valued because they closely resemble terrestrial rocks and are so difficult to distinguish or even find. This group can also be divided into two sub-groups based upon the different substances that make up the ‘stone’ part of their composition.

Iron Meteors

While iron meteors only encompass less than 6% of all meteors, the iron meteorites are actually the most common type that is found. This is likely because they look so different from terrestrial rock and can be easily found. Again, as the name suggests, the iron meteors are primarily composed of iron. About 90-95% of these meteors are iron while the remaining percentage can be nickel or other elements. These meteors come from the cores of planets or of asteroids and scientist believe that many of the iron meteors that enter the earth’s atmosphere come from the asteroid belt between the planet Mars and the planet Jupiter. This type of meteor also has two subgroups (which are based on the chemical composition and structure.

Stony-Iron Meteors

The final type of meteor is the stony-iron meteors and they are aptly named for the composition. About half of the composition of these meteors is an iron-nickel combination and the other half is stone and dust. This type is the rarest with less than 2% of all meteorites being this type. The origin of these meteors is from the boundary layer of mantle and core of planets or asteroids. Stony-iron meteors also have two subgroups which are separated by distinctive differences in the iron-nickel matrixes and the composition of the ‘stone’ portion of the meteors.

Meteors can be divided into three types based upon the general composition. Stony meteors are the most common type with iron being second and stony-iron coming in third. Each meteor can be divided into subgroups based upon distinct differences in structure and the exact composition of their constituents. Each type of meteor also comes from a different part of a planetary body. Really the only thing that each of the meteor types have in common with each other is that they have all come into contact with the earht’s atmosphere and been heated by friction.

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