Meteors also called “shooting stars“, have long been a mystery to man!
Today, astronomers feel they have a pretty good idea of what meteors are. They believe them to be broken fragments of comets. When comets break up, the millions of fragments continue to move through space as a meteor swarm or stream. The swarms move in regular orbits, or paths, through space. Some of the larger fragments may become detached and travel through space singly.
Most individual meteors are quite small, but occasionally there are some that weigh many tons. They are usually destroyed entirely by heat when they pass through the earth’s atmosphere. Only the larger ones reach the earth.
When a piece of meteor reaches the earth it is called a “meteorite“. The largest one found so far weighs between 60 and 70 tons and is still in its resting place in Africa.
There are two main kinds of meteorites. There are those composed chiefly of nickel and iron. These are called the “metallic” meteorites. Some are composed of minerals and look like a piece of igneous rock (rock formed by intense heat). These are called the “stony” meteorites or “aerolites”. The outer surfaces of either kind usually have black crusts which are the result of the terrific heat experienced in passing through the atmosphere to earth.