OCT 26, 2017 3:17 PM PDT

What Makes Meteors Explode?

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard


When the Earth happens to find itself in the crosshairs of a meteor, people tend to panic at the thought that it's the end of the world. On the contrary, most meteors explode and break up before ever reaching the ground, and you have the Earth's atmosphere to thank for that.

Meteors move at high rates of speed through space, where there's virtually no friction. As soon as they have to fight friction in the Earth's atmosphere at those speeds, the meteor heats up, and its structural integrity has a hard time overcoming the excess drag.

When presented with tremendous amounts of drag, the side of the meteor facing the friction moves more slowly than the side that isn't combating these forces. Consequently, the meteor compresses, becomes unstable, and collapses.

A meteor's composition and size each have a lot to do with its probability of breaking up. Meteors rich in metal have a higher resistance to compression, while chondrite-rich stonier ones are more susceptible to shattering under these forces.

Luckily for anyone with meteor phobias, most shatter before touching the ground. It's incredibly uncommon that a giant meteor survives the fall and contacts the ground.

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUL 20, 2020
Space & Astronomy
How Do Astronauts Have Fun in Space?
JUL 20, 2020
How Do Astronauts Have Fun in Space?
Scientists who inhabit the International Space Station (ISS) typically have 12-hour shifts. These include two and a half ...
JUL 23, 2020
Health & Medicine
Study Reveals Racial Disparities in Children's Postsurgical Outcomes
JUL 23, 2020
Study Reveals Racial Disparities in Children's Postsurgical Outcomes
A study published this week in Pediatrics revealed racial disparities in postsurgical mortality and complicati ...
AUG 10, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Researchers Debunk Cannabis Growing Myths
AUG 10, 2020
Researchers Debunk Cannabis Growing Myths
Researchers at Utah State University grew cannabis to study until the Controlled Substances Act came into force in 1970. ...
AUG 22, 2020
Neuroscience
Why Don't Babies Always Remember What they Learn?
AUG 22, 2020
Why Don't Babies Always Remember What they Learn?
Researchers from Ruhr- Universitaet Bochum (RUB) in Germany have found that the mood babies are in when they learn somet ...
OCT 22, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
NASA Looks to Nuclear Fusion for Powering Deep Space Missions
OCT 22, 2020
NASA Looks to Nuclear Fusion for Powering Deep Space Missions
Nuclear fusion is the frontier of energy research, and NASA has a plan to bring this state-of-the-art power source to th ...
NOV 12, 2020
Health & Medicine
Measles Cases and Deaths Surge Worldwide
NOV 12, 2020
Measles Cases and Deaths Surge Worldwide
Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a stat ...
Loading Comments...