ELI5 – The Russian Meteorite

Just like everything else in the solar system, debris travels around the sun at varied speeds. And sometimes they collide with earth.

So what hit Russia this morning?
A meteorite, estimated to weigh 10 tonnes, which hit the earth at 33,000 miles per hour.

A meteorite can vary in size and can be as small as a grain of sand or large as a boulder, spanning 10 meters in diameter. It is a small body from outer space which enters into the earth’s atmosphere, appearing as a streak of light.

It differs from a meteor and an asteroid because of its size category. Asteroids are more than 10 meters in diameter and can span up to 1,000 kilometers. A meteor is usually thought of as a dust particles.

When any foreign object enters into Earth’s atmosphere, atmospheric pressure causes it to heat up, causing a glowing trail of gases and melted particles — this is commonly referred to as a shooting star. Depending on the meteor’s composition, and the speed of its impact, the trail of light can be different colors and hues.

For example, a orange stream indicates a high level of sodium and a purple streak indicates a high level of potassium. While shooting stars happen frequently, most shooting stars are only visible with the naked eye at night.

It is estimated that 1,000 and 10,000 tonnes of material rain down from space onto earth every day, although most is burned up by the atmosphere.

To view video footage of Russia’s meteorite, you can click here.

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