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Meteoroids and impact craters

December 31, 1985

On a clear night scores of meteoroids streak across the sky. they leave light paths we call meteors or shooting stars as the Earth is showered with debris from distant parts of the solar system. When these meteoroids hit the Earth (as meteorites) they range in size from pebbles to the 34 ton Ahnighito meteorite that the American explorer Admiral Robert Peary discovered in Greenland. The unique importance of meteorites is that they have an extra-terrestrial origin and can provide us with direct evidence on the make-up of the solar system. They also give us clues to the origin of the solar system because they formed about 4.6 billion years ago at about the time the planets formed.

Many meteoroids are associted with comets; as a comet travels around the sun it leaves a trail of debris behind it and it is this debris which produces meteor showers. Other meteoroids come from the asteroid belt, a zone between Mars and Jupiter filled with thousands of dwarf worlds that failed to coalesce into planets. 

  • USGS Source: Publications Warehouse (indexId: 70168934)