Messages in a meteorites bring news from outer space (Thinkstock)
Messages in a meteorites bring news from outer space

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Meteorites may conjure images of giant rocks smashing into towns, but in fact, meteorites rarely hit people and regularly bring valuable materials to Earth from outer space.

All of the iron we use on Earth today was delivered by meteorites and gold and platinum even have meteorite origins.

Meteorites have been hurtling to Earth since its formation nearly 4.6 billion years ago, way before humans evolved. Without meteorites, our planet would be a very different place in terms of minerals available for our use.

Meteorites are valuable not only as sources of minerals, but also because of the information they contain. A meteorite is a space-time messenger from our solar system, chipped off an asteroid or other orbiting body. It may hang around in orbit for thousands or millions of years before getting pitched to Earth. It carries a story of events and conditions in space that are otherwise difficult to study.

Using sophisticated technology to analyze the chemistry of meteorites, scientists find materials pointing back as far as the formation of our universe and these discoveries set the stage for planning spacecraft missions. Meteorites from Mars inspired a series of missions to explore the possibility of life on the red planet.

Find out more about meteorites and the solar system by joining us on Thursday, June 25, 2015, for a Smithsonian Science How live webcast titled Astrogeology: Meteorites and Spacecraft Missions, airing at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. EDT on the Q?rius website.

Meteoriticist Dr. Tim McCoy from the National Museum of Natural History will appear live to discuss and answer questions and you can get teaching resources to support your webcast experience.

Critical thinking challenge: How is a meteorite a space-time messenger?

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  • Joni-Pav
    6/12/2015 - 10:41 a.m.

    Meterorites are very interesting and i find them fasinating. This story is just increasing my love and joy fror the object. We have minerals from astroids and i just love it all.

  • zacharyhuyser.72
    6/12/2015 - 12:51 p.m.

    It is amazing how meteorites just float around in space until they hit something. I have researched and found that around 18,000 and 84,000 meteorites fall to earth each year. It is a good thing they aren't usually very big so they don't damage property or anything like that.

  • caoilinncrotty53
    6/12/2015 - 12:54 p.m.

    A meteorite is a space-time messenger because it came from somewhere other than earth so it has that material on it. Plus, as it flies through space and can collect other materials in space that come from other planets. I think meteorites are the a good step to finding a planet that can substance life like earth. If a meteorite has life on it then we track that back to were it came from and maybe it could be like earth.

  • im2001moobys
    6/12/2015 - 01:23 p.m.

    I never knew that iron came from meteorites. That is pretty cool but what if one day we run out of iron because no meteors and every one in the world had a panic attack because they don't have iron. Think about it.

  • CMegan-Cas
    6/15/2015 - 06:45 p.m.

    A meteorite is a space-time messenger because it carries information. It may hold onto orbit before getting thrown into earth for thousands or millions of years. It carries a series of events and conditions in space that are difficult to study.

  • MJordan-Cas
    6/15/2015 - 08:32 p.m.

    It is amazing that all of our iron has come from meteorites. Meteorites are space-time messengers because they carry a story of events and conditions in space that are otherwise difficult to study. I hope we could learn more and more from meteorites in the future.

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