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Meteorites, Asteroids, and Comets Chapter 25. In Chapter 19, we began our study of planetary astronomy by asking how our solar system formed. In the five.

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Presentation on theme: "Meteorites, Asteroids, and Comets Chapter 25. In Chapter 19, we began our study of planetary astronomy by asking how our solar system formed. In the five."— Presentation transcript:

1 Meteorites, Asteroids, and Comets Chapter 25

2 In Chapter 19, we began our study of planetary astronomy by asking how our solar system formed. In the five chapters that followed, we surveyed the planets, but we gained only limited insight into the origin of the solar system. The planets are big, and they have evolved as heat has flowed out of their interiors. In this chapter, we have our best look at unevolved matter left over from the solar nebula. These small bodies are, in fact, the last remains of the nebula that gave birth to the planets. This chapter is unique in that it covers small bodies. In past chapters, we have used the principles of comparative planetology to study large objects— the planets. In this chapter, we see that the same principles apply to smaller bodies, but we also see that we need some new tools in order to think about the tiniest worlds in the solar system. Guidepost

3 I. Meteorites A. Meteoroid Orbits B. Meteorite Impacts on Earth C. An Analysis of Meteorites D. The Origins of Meteorites II. Asteroids A. The Asteroid Belt B. Nonbelt Asteroids C. Composition and Origin III. Comets A. Properties of Comets B. The Geology of Comet Nuclei C. The Origin of Comets Outline

4 IV. Impacts on Earth A. Impacts and Dinosaurs B. The Tunguska Event Outline (continued)

5 Meteoroids, Meteors, Meteorites Meteoroid is a small body in space. Meteor is a meteoroid colliding with Earth and producing a visible light trace in the sky. Meteorite is a meteor that survives the plunge through the atmosphere to strike the ground. Sizes from microscopic dust to a few centimeters. About 2 meteorites large enough to produce visible impacts strike the Earth every day; 40,000 tons of mass per year! Statistically, one meteorite is expected to strike a building somewhere on Earth every 16 months. Typically impact onto the atmosphere with 10 – 30 km/s (30 times faster than a rifle bullet!).

6 Meteor Showers Most meteors appear in showers, peaking periodically at specific dates of the year. Names of showers are for the constellation from which they appear to originate.

7 Radiants of Meteor Showers Tracing the tracks of meteors in a shower backwards, they appear to come from a common origin, the radiant. Similar to how railroad tracks appear to emerge from a point

8 Meteoroid Orbits Meteoroids contributing to a meteor shower are debris particles, orbiting in the path of a comet. Debris spreads out all along the orbit of the comet. Comet may still exist or have been destroyed. Some sporadic meteors are not associated with meteor showers, but are stray material from comets or asteroids.

9 Meteorite Impacts on Earth Over 150 impact craters found on Earth. Barringer Crater near Flagstaff, AZ is 1.2 km diameter and 200 m deep. It formed about 50,000 years ago by a meteorite of 80–100 meters in diameter. The impact caused a drastic change of Earth’s climate and possibly responsible for extinction of dinosaurs. Much larger impact features exist on Earth, such as a crater 180–300 km in diameter in the Yucatán peninsula from about 65 million years ago.

10 3 broad categories: Iron meteorites Iron meteorites Stony meteorites Stony meteorites Stony-Iron meteorites Stony-Iron meteorites What Does a “Meteorite” Look Like?

11 Finding Meteorites Most meteorites are small and don’t produce significant craters. Antarctica is a good place to find meteorites on white snow. Falls are meteorites observed to fall to the ground. Finds are meteorites with unknown fall time. Iron meteorites are easy to recognize – they are heavy, dense lumps of iron-nickel steel) – more likely to be found and collected.

12 The Allende Meteorite Fell in 1969 near Pueblito de Allende, Mexico Showered an area about 50 km x 10 km with over 4 tons of fragments. Fragments containing calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions. Extremely temperature- resistant materials. Allende meteorite is a very old sample of solar-nebula material!

13 The Origins of Meteorites Probably formed in the solar nebula, about 4.6 billion years ago. Almost certainly not from comets (in contrast to meteors in meteor showers!). Probably fragments of stony-iron planetesimals that may have melted by heat produced in radioactive decay. Radioactive elements may be from a nearby supernova around the time of formation of the solar system. Large planetesimals cool and differentiate. Collisions eject material with different compositions and temperatures. Meteorites broken up from planetesimals not very long ago – so remains of planetesimals should still exist – asteriods!

14 Asteroids Last remains of planetesimals that built the planets 4.6 billion years ago!

15 The Asteroid Belt Sizes and shapes of the largest asteroids, compared to the moon Small, irregular objects, mostly in the apparent gap between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Thousands of asteroids with accurately determined orbits known today.

16 Kirkwood’s Gaps The asteroid orbits are not evenly distributed throughout the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. There are several gaps where no asteroids are found called Kirkwood’s gaps (purple bars below) These gaps correspond to resonances of the orbits with the orbit of Jupiter.

17 Non-Belt Asteroids Apollo-Amor Objects: Not all asteroids orbit within the asteroid belt. Asteroids with elliptical orbits, reaching into the inner solar system. Some potentially could collide with Mars or Earth! Trojans: Sharing stable orbits along the orbit of Jupiter: Trapped in the Lagrangian points of Jupiter. NASA’s “Dawn Mission” will visit asteroid Vesta in 2011 (and dwarf planet Ceres in 2015)

18 The Origin of Asteroids Images of the Asteroid Vesta show a complex surface, including a large impact crater. Meteorite probably fragmented from Vesta Old theory: asteroids are remains of a broken up planet. New theory: asteroids are broken planetesimals formed during solar nebula/planet building Other complex features found: Vesta shows evidence for impact crater and lava flows. Heat for existence of lava flows probably from radioactive decay of 26 Al.

19 Appearances of comet Kohoutek (1973), Halley (1986), and Hale-Bopp (1997) caused concern among superstitious. Comet Hyakutake in 1996 Throughout history, comets have been considered as portents of doom, even very recently: Comets of History Comet Ikeya-Seki 1965 Comet Hale Bopp (1997) Comet Kohoutek 1973

20 Two Types of Tails Ion tail: Ionized gas pushed away from the comet by the solar wind, pointing straight away from the sun. Dust tail: Dust set free from vaporizing ice in the comet; carried away from the comet by the pressure of sunlight, lagging behind the comet along its trajectory.

21 Gas and Dust Tails of Comet Mrkos in 1957

22 Build A Comet (SLIDESHOW MODE ONLY)

23 Dust Jets from Comet Nuclei Jets of dust are ejected radially from the nuclei of comets. Comet Hale-Bopp, with uniform corona digitally removed from the image. Comet dust material can be collected by spacecraft above Earth’s atmosphere.

24 Fragmenting Comets Comet Linear apparently completely vaporized during its sun passage in Only small rocky fragments remained.

25 The Geology of Comet Nuclei Comet nuclei contain ices of water, carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia - materials likely condensed from the outer solar nebula. Those compounds sublime (transition from solid directly to gas phase) as comets approach the sun. Densities of comet nuclei about 0.1 – 0.25 g/cm 3 Not solid ice balls, but fluffy material with significant amounts of empty space.

26 Fragmentation of Comet Nuclei Comet nuclei are very fragile and are easily fragmented. Comet Shoemaker-Levy was disrupted by tidal forces of Jupiter Two chains of impact craters on Earth’s moon and on Jupiter’s moon Callisto may have been caused by fragments of a comet.

27 The Origin of Comets Long period comets are believed to originate in the Oort cloud – a spherical group of several trillion icy bodies, about 10,000 – 100,000 AU from the sun. 10,000 – 100,000 AU Oort Cloud Gravitational influence of occasional passing stars may perturb some orbits and draw long period comets towards the inner solar system. Interactions with planets may perturb orbits further, capturing short period comets in orbit.

28 The Kuiper Belt Most short period comets are thought to originate from the Kuiper Belt – a group small, icy bodies in the plane of the outer solar system about 30 – 100 AU from the sun. A few Kuiper belt objects can be observed directly by Hubble Space Telescope. Pluto, Charon, and Triton may be captured Kuiper belt objects.

29 Impacts on Earth Comet nucleus impact producing the Chicxulub crater about 65 million years ago may have caused major climate change, leading to the extinction of many species, including dinosaurs. Gravity map shows the extent of the crater hidden below limestone deposited since the impact.

30 The Tunguska Event The Tunguska event in Siberia in 1908 destroyed an area the size of a large city! Explosion of a large object, probably an Apollo asteroid of 90 – 190 m in diameter, a few km above the ground. Energy release comparable to a 12- megaton nuclear weapon! Area of destruction from the Tunguska event superimposed on a map of Washington, D.C. and surrounding beltway.

31 Impacts on Earth (SLIDESHOW MODE ONLY)

32 radiant sporadic meteor fall find iron meteorite selection effect Widmanstätten pattern stony meteorite chondrite chondrule carbonaceous chondrite CAI achondrite stony-iron meteorite Kirkwood’s gaps Apollo–Amor objects Trojan asteroids Hirayama families gas (type I) tail dust (type II) tail coma Oort cloud Kuiper belt New Terms


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