Meteoroid, meteor, meteorite? This poster from the American Meteor Society explains the terminology associated with every kind of space rock. (Infographic by Vincent Perlerin and Mike Hankey; original in higher resolution available here.)
Sikhote-Alin iron meteorite. Structural classification is coarsest octahedrite type IIB. Weight is 130.1 grams. The Sikhote-Alin Meteorite was an observed fall on the Sikhote-Alin mountains in Siberia in 1947. An estimated 70 Tonnes of this iron-nickel meteorite made it to the ground. Two forms of this meteorite exist. The “Individual”, that is shown in a previous posting, is a broken piece of the main mass that continued to “burn up” in the atmosphere before hitting the ground. The “Shrapnel” form consists of torn and twisted fragments that formed when the meteoroid exploded near the ground or upon impaction. The individuals of the Sikhote-Alin fall are one of the most sought after meteorites by collectors because of their exquisite shapes and character. The sample shown above is a classic example of the “shrapnel” variety.
Photographer Randy Halverson was at Badlands National Park last August filming a time-lapse video, when he happened to catch something bright in the clouds. It was a meteor!
Meteors are what we call a “shooting star”. It refers specifically to the light we see in the sky. A meteoroid is the actual debris or dust that’s speeding through the atmosphere.
The color of the meteor is influenced by its composition. This meteoroid likely has magnesium in it because Mg appears blue-green when it collides with air molecules. The initial collisions create a vapor trail of atoms, while subsequent ones knock elections further away from the atom’s nucleus. When those electrons return to their resting state, light is emitted giving us a shooting star.
”Last night I went out to Snowy Range in Wyoming in search of dark skies for the Perseid meteor shower. I wanted something special for the foreground and I knew the Snowies faced in the perfect direction to get this shot. I started shooting at 10pm and didn’t stop until 5 am, I had to change my battery every 2 hours which made for a long night. The moon rose around 1am to light up the mountain range[…]”
Seymchan iron/pallasite meteorite from Magadan District, Russia. Weight is 17 grams. The pallasite meteorite slice shown here consists of iron-nickel matrix with floating peridote crystals. These types of meteorites are thought to have originated from the core-mantle boundary of large, differentiated asteroids where the hot iron-nickel core mixed with the peridote (olivine) crystals of the deep mantle. After cooling and solidifying, the asteroid collided with another body causing fragmentation and exposing the deep core-mantle portion. Pallasites are a very rare type of meteorite. Upper photos are taken with microscope at 10X to show the detail of the peridote crystals and iron matrix. The beautiful image with the back-light shinning through the olivine crystal is what gives these meteorites the name “gems of the solar system”.