Adirondack Sky Center
Tupper Lake, New York
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Astro Quiz 10: Meteorite Temperature

Question #10 – When a meteorite his the ground, is it warm or cold?

Answer: This is a complicated problem that depends on the size of the meteorite. Generally, large ones come down very hot because of the tremendous kinetic energy they dissipate in the atmosphere through friction. The small ones have less kinetic energy and reach a terminal velocity of a few hundred miles per hour at altitudes of many miles up so that they cool off rapidly and “gently” hit the ground. Unfortunately, astronomers really aren't sure because there isn't a lot hard evidence to determine meteorite temperatures.

Thanks to Ronald Lewis from Green Mountain Astronomers for contributing this question.

For more information about meteorite temperatures, please read this article at Cornell University's "Ask an Astronomer"


ASC Trustee Jeffrey Miller with a 370-lb. iron meteorite from the Barringer Meteor Crater, Arizona.
Photo credit: Jeffrey Miller at the Van Vleck Observatory at Wesleyan University, Middletown CT.

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