When Meteorites Hit Earth, This Is Where Many of Them End Up

Michele Debczak
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

For a meteorite to form, a meteor needs to pass through Earth's atmosphere. That meteor needs to be a certain size, or else the rock will disintegrate to nothing on the fiery descent. When they do make it to the planet's surface, meteorites can land in populated areas, desolate areas, and in at least one case, on an unsuspecting woman napping on her couch. The meteorites that get noticed don't remain at their crash sites for long: Many of them end up in places like the Center for Meteorite Studies at Arizona State University.

SciFri recently took a tour of the institution's "meteorite vault," led by curator Laurence Garvie. The collection includes space rocks containing iron, gemstones, and even organic materials like carbon. One famous sample, called Murchison, is packed with organic compounds that predate Earth itself.

Arizona State University doesn't just stockpile meteorites because they look pretty: The samples can be used in studies, including those looking at how planets and solar systems form. To see highlights from the vault, check out the video below.

[h/t SciFri]