How do Meteors come to exist?

 How do Meteors come to exist?

The Sky IS Falling

When the huge meteor exploded over the Ural Mountains in Russia Friday, we all watched in amazement.  Shattered windows, and damage to buildings resulted in nearly 900 injuries, 43 of which had to be transported to the hospital.  On the same day, an asteroid named DA14, came within 17,000 miles or so, as close as a telecommunication satellite in geosynchronous orbit. DA14 is quite a bit smaller than YU55, the asteroid that passed Earth in November 2011, but DA14 came more than 10 times closer.

So, to all you “Chicken Littles” out there, you are right, the sky is falling.  But, unless you believe disaster movies are based on factual science, I wouldn’t worry about it much.

Every year approximately 26,000 meteorites crash into the earth.  There are more than 7,000 asteroids of various sizes rushing through space as well.

What about meteors?  How do they come to exist?  It’s simple.  They are either debris from the creation of a planet like our own, or broken pieces of a comet.  When they come near the Earth, gravity pulls them in.  The majority of meteors burn up as they enter the atmosphere, but small pieces reach the ground in the form of meteorites.

Why don’t we see them crash into our planet?  The majority of them land in unpopulated areas, and the ocean, which covers two thirds of the Earth’s surface.

In 1908, a slightly larger meteor, perhaps three times larger in diameter, or 27 times larger in mass, flattened a thousand square miles of forest near Tunguska, Russia, downing some 80 million trees.

As you can see by the time frame, large meteors reaching the surface of the Earth are quite rare.

Asteroids are a different matter.  They are large, irregular, rocky bodies that orbit around the sun roughly between Mars and Jupiter.  Having them pass close to the Earth is not that uncommon, but most of them are small.

They have crashed into the Earth Mars, and our moon in the 4.5 billion years the planet has existed.  A large asteroid is credited with destroying the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago, allowing mammals to flourish.

So, there’s no need to put Bruce Willis on your speed dial.  If you’re planning to be around in about 1000 years, something could always happen.  In the meantime, think about this.  You have a greater chance of being hit by the “space junk” mankind has created than you do by a meteor.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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