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

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]

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

3D Map Shows the Milky Way Galaxy in Unprecedented Detail

ESA
ESA

It's our galactic home, but the Milky Way contains many mysteries scientists are working to unravel. Now, as The Guardian reports, astronomers at the European Space Agency have built a 3D map that provides the most detailed look at our galaxy yet.

The data displayed in the graphic below has been seven years in the making. In 2013, the ESA launched its Gaia observatory from Kourou in French Guiana. Since then, two high-powered telescopes aboard the spacecraft have been sweeping the skies, recording the locations, movements, and changes in brightness of more than a billion stars in the Milky Way and beyond.

Using Gaia's findings, astronomers put together a 3D map that allows scientists to study the galaxy in greater depth than ever before. The data has made it possible to measure the acceleration of the solar system. By comparing the solar system's movement to that of more remote celestial objects, researchers have determined that the solar system is slowly falling toward the center of the galaxy at an acceleration of 7 millimeters per second per year, The Guardian reports. Additionally, the map reveals how matter is distributed throughout the Milky Way. With this information, scientists should be able to get an estimate of the galaxy's mass.

Gaia's observations may also hold clues to the Milky Way's past and future. The data holds remnants of the 10-billion-year-old disc that made up the edge of the star system. By comparing it to the shape of the Milky Way today, astronomers have determined that the disc will continue to expand as new stars are created.

The Gaia observatory was launched with the mission of gathering an updated star census. The previous census was conducted in 1957, and Gaia's new data reaches four times farther and accounts for 100 times more stars.

[h/t The Guardian]