Connect with us

Space

Watching the Sky Fall: Visualizing a Century of Meteorites

Published

on

Watching the Sky Fall: Visualizing a Century of Meteorites

Watching the Sky Fall: Visualizing a Century of Meteorites

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson once said “The chances that your tombstone will read ‘Killed by an Asteroid’ are about the same as they’d be for ‘Killed in Airplane Crash’.”

Part of the reason for this is the Earth’s atmospheric ability to burn up inbound space rocks before they reach the surface, a process that ensures that most meteors never become meteorites.

Of the 33,162 meteorites found in the past 100 years, only 625 were seen. Today’s visualization from data designer Tiffany Farrant-Gonzalez groups these 625 observed meteorites by the year they fell, classification, mass, and landing location on Earth.

Asteroid, Meteoroids, Meteors, and Meteorites

Not all flying space rocks are the same. Their origins and trajectories define its type.

Asteroid: A large rocky body in space, in orbit around the Sun.
Meteoroid: Much smaller rocks or particles in orbit around the Sun.
Meteor: If a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes, it becomes a meteor, or a shooting star.
Meteorite: If a small asteroid or large meteoroid survives its fiery passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and lands on Earth’s surface.
Bolide: A very bright meteor that often explodes in the atmosphere, also known as a fireball.

Classification

This graphic classifies meteorites into four types based on their composition: stony, stony-iron, iron and other.

StonyStony-IronIronOther
Achondites
Chrondites
Unclassifed
Mesoiderites
Pallasites
Magmatic
Non-magmatic or Primitive
Doubtful Meteorites
Pseudometeorite

Top 5 Meteorites by Size

While half of all observed meteorites weighed less than 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs), there are a few exceptional ones that stand out. The graphic highlights the five largest meteorites ever observed, and when they fell:

LocatonSizeYearType
Sikhote-Alin, Russia23 MT1947Iron
Jilin, China4 MT1976Stony
Allende, Mexico2 MT1969Stony
Norton County, USA1.1 MT1948Stony
Kunya-Urgench, Turkmenistan1.1 MT1998Stony

Each category differs in their amount of iron-nickel metal and what they reveal about the early solar system.

Fireballs in the Sky: Bolides

Small asteroids frequently enter and disintegrate in Earth’s atmosphere randomly around the globe, creating fireballs known as bolides. NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program mapped data gathered by U.S. government sensors from 1994 to 2013.

Source: NASA

The data indicates that small asteroids impacted Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in a bolide (or fireball), on 556 separate occasions over a 20-year period. Almost all asteroids of this size disintegrate in the atmosphere and are harmless.

A notable exception was the Chelyabinsk event in 2013, which was the largest known natural object to have entered Earth’s atmosphere since the 1908 Tunguska event. A house-sized asteroid entered the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk at over 11 miles per second, and blew apart 14 miles above the ground.

The explosion released an energy equivalent to ~440,000 tons of TNT, generating a shock wave that shattered windows over 200 square miles—damaging several buildings and injuring over 1,600 people.

Look Out Above

While the night sky appears to be a beautiful tableau of the cosmos, these two visualizations paint a dramatic galactic battle. Rocks inundate our planet as it moves through the darkness of space. The resiliency of Earth’s atmosphere to erode these invaders has allowed life to flourish⁠—until the next big one comes through.

Remember the Dinosaurs?

Click for Comments

Space

Visualizing All Attempted and Successful Moon Landings

Since the beginning of the space race, only four countries have successfully accomplished missions to the moon.

Published

on

All successful and attempted moon landings.

Visualizing All Attempted and Successful Moon Landings

Since before Ancient Greece and the first Chinese Dynasties, people have sought to understand and learn more about the moon.

Curiosity and centuries of study culminated in the first moon landing in the 1960s. But there have been many other attempted moon landings, both before and after.

This chart by Preyash Shah illustrates all the moon landings using NASA data since 1966 when Soviet lander Luna 9 touched down.

Race to the Moon

The 1960s and 1970s marked an era of intense competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as they raced to conquer the moon.

During the Cold War, space became a priority as each side sought to prove the superiority of its technology, its military firepower, and its political-economic system.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set a national goal to have a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth.

After several failed attempts from both sides, on July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission was successful and astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon.

MissionLaunch DateOperatorCountryMission TypeOutcome
Ranger 326-Jan-62NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSpacecraft failure
Ranger 423-Apr-62NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSpacecraft failure
Ranger 518-Oct-62NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSpacecraft failure
Luna E-6 No.24-Jan-63 OKB-1☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna E-6 No.33-Feb-63 OKB-1☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna 42-Apr-63 OKB-1☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna E-6 No.621-Mar-64 OKB-1☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna E-6 No.520-Apr-64 OKB-1☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Kosmos 6012-Mar-65 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna E-6 No.810-Apr-65 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 59-May-65 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 68-Jun-65 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 74-Oct-65 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 83-Dec-65 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 931-Jan-66 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Surveyor 130-May-66 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSuccessful
Surveyor 220-Sep-66 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 1321-Dec-66 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Surveyor 317-Apr-67 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSuccessful
Surveyor 414-Jul-67 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSpacecraft failure
Surveyor 58-Sep-67 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSuccessful
Surveyor 67-Nov-67 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSuccessful
Surveyor 77-Jan-68 NASA🇺🇸 U.S.LanderSuccessful
Luna E-8 No.20119-Feb-69 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna E-8-5 No.40214-Jun-69 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna 1513-Jul-69 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Apollo 1116-Jul-69NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Successful
Kosmos 30023-Sep-69 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Kosmos 30522-Oct-69 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Apollo 1214-Nov-69NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Successful
Luna E-8-5 No.4056-Feb-70 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Apollo 1311-Apr-70NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Partial failure
Luna 1612-Sep-70 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Luna 1710-Nov-70 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Apollo 1431-Jan-71NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Successful
Apollo 1526-Jul-71NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Successful
Luna 182-Sep-71 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSpacecraft failure
Luna 2014-Feb-72 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Apollo 1616-Apr-72NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Successful
Apollo 177-Dec-72NASA🇺🇸 U.S.Lander/
Launch Vehicle
Successful
Luna 218-Jan-73 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Luna 2316-Oct-75 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderPartial failure
Luna E-8-5M No.41216-Oct-75 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderLaunch failure
Luna 249-Aug-76 Lavochkin☭ USSRLanderSuccessful
Chang'e 31-Dec-13 CNSA🇨🇳 ChinaLanderOperational
Chang'e 47-Dec-18 CNSA🇨🇳 ChinaLanderOperational
Beresheet22-Feb-19 SpaceIL🇮🇱 IsraelLanderSpacecraft failure
Chandrayaan-222-Jul-19ISRO🇮🇳 IndiaLanderSpacecraft Failure
Chang'e 523-Nov-20 CNSA🇨🇳 ChinaLanderSuccessful
Hakuto-R Mission 111-Dec-22 ispace🇯🇵 JapanLanderSpacecraft failure
Chandrayaan-314-Jul-23ISRO🇮🇳 IndiaLanderSuccessful
Luna 2510-Aug-23 Roscosmos🇷🇺 RussiaLanderSpacecraft failure

After the Apollo missions, the fervor of lunar exploration waned. From 1976 to 2013, no moon landing attempts occurred due to budget constraints, shifting priorities, and advances in robotic missions.

However, a new chapter in space exploration has unfolded in recent years, with emerging players entering the cosmic arena. With its Chang’e missions, China has made significant strides, landing rovers on the moon and exploring the far side of the moon.

India, too, has asserted its presence with the Chandrayaan missions. In 2023, the country became the 4th nation to reach the moon as an unmanned spacecraft landed near the lunar south pole, advancing the country’s space ambitions to learn more about the lunar ice, potentially one of the moon’s most valuable resources.

Exploring Lunar Water

Since the 1960s, even before the historic Apollo landing, scientists had theorized the potential existence of water on the moon.

In 2008, Brown University researchers employed advanced technology to reexamine lunar samples, discovering hydrogen within beads of volcanic glass. And in 2009, a NASA instrument aboard the India’s Chandrayaan-1 probe confirmed the presence of water on the moon’s surface.

Water is deemed crucial for future space exploration. Beyond serving as a potential source of drinking water for future moon explorations, ice deposits could play a pivotal role in cooling equipment. Lunar ice could also be broken down to produce hydrogen for fuel and oxygen for breathing, essential for supporting extended space missions.

With a reinvigorated interest in exploring the moon, manned moon landings are on the horizon once again. In April 2023, NASA conducted tests for the launch of Artemis I, the first American spacecraft to aim for the moon since 1972. The agency aims to send astronauts to the moon around 2025 and build a base camp on the lunar surface.

Continue Reading

Subscribe

Popular