Shape-of-a-Meteorite

Over the years, scientists wondered about meteorites that made it to Earth and why most of them have the same shape. The recent discovery through a series of experimentations and research gave the answer to what causes them to have this ideal shape in the end.

The experiments they took involved erosion and melting that is caused by the Earth’s atmosphere and starts when a meteorite enters the atmosphere. Interestingly, almost every meteorite that lands on the Earth has a similar shape. The researchers have discovered that if the edges are too narrow or slender, the meteorite would tumble and flip over. However, if the edges are broad, the meteorite flutters and rocks back and forth.

Finally, there is a third type of shape that is considered ideal where the meteorite’s apex (or point) will lead and cause them to travel straight. The research they have conducted perfectly matched what they discovered from real meteorites and the comparison between the two was an exact match. We all know from aerodynamics that the shape of the object will impact its ability to fly properly or straight. This finally gave the answer to the question of why so many meteorites that land on Earth have the same shape.

When they are in outer space, all meteorites have an irregular shape. There are no rules to that. However, when they enter the atmosphere, their last fiery flight begins. These so-called shooting stars don’t always manage to reach the ground, and those that do, have been a mystery for such a long time. The atmospheric flight that we mentioned will change the shape of the meteorite, and it will erode, melt, and eventually become reshaped. Furthermore, there is a quarter of meteorites that aren’t shaped like some blob but are a perfect cone that is exactly like the one research provided.

To recreate the atmospheric flight of the meteorite, the research had to simulate the conditions that occur when they reach the atmosphere. One of the ways to achieve this is to use an object made of clay submerged in water. The water current will eventually change the shape of the clay object the way the atmosphere would. Finally, we will get the same shape as the meteorites that are neither too broad or too narrow.

It is worth mentioning that this is not a perfect example and perfect recreation of all conditions the meteor goes through since in the atmosphere the object is not fixed and can rotate freely, spin, or even tumble. So the next question that needed an answer was, “What causes meteors to keep a fixed direction while traveling?”

The additional experiment showed that an object “too broad” would fall through the water while tumbling, while the one that is too narrow would flutter. However, the “perfect-shaped” one will fall straight downward.

Finally, the forces that cause melting and reshaping of meteorites also create an object with perfect aerodynamics that also stabilizes its posture. This way, the meteorites with ideal shape will eventually reach the ground. Besides, there are so many things that we could learn from these experiments about the universe itself.