Earth was once ruled by very BIG things things equipped with very sharp teeth. And then things changed about 65 million years ago.
A six mile wide rocky space invader hurled through the cosmic inky depths, while a sparkling blue planet spun in the distance—Earth. Doomsday loomed above a roaring triceratops as a terrible lizard wrapped its toothy maw around a scaled neck. Delicious.
…they all died.
Mass extinctions are a pain in the ass! Once life starts to get going…BAM! A searing rock plummets out of the sky, creating a wave of incinerating hell all over the entire planet. This happened at least a few times here on Earth.
In fact…some very smart scientists claim the next mass extinction is over due.
Yeah yeah.We can complain all we want. But life needs a stable environment to sprout and flourish into complex entities. But before life can begin, it needs, well…an environment.
But before a life friendly environment can be established, life needs something to become established on. That something so happens to be a relatively sizeable rocky body. There’s little debate: if it weren’t for the big rock underneath our feet, then we simply wouldn’t be here. Because there would be nothing to stand on. Or swim on.
Asteroids bash heads and forge larger asteroids, and then the larger headbangers proceed to bash their metallic or rocky head against another somewhat nearby piece of stellar debris. That’s how planets are born. Kind of. Sort of.
…do you want to see one of these rocky metal heads for yourself?
Grab your pick and brush—we’re goin’ meteorite hunting! Things are about to get dusty.
Meteors uppercut Earth on a daily basis. Most of the evidence is tucked away underground, however, it’s not uncommon to discover meteorites lounging on-top of arctic lakes. Weathering or other natural phenomenon will assimilate meteorites into their natural surroundings.
Excavating a dinosaur killer takes time. And effort. And patience. And some luck. Oh! And some skill.
Pieces of a rocky invader can be spread all over a massive strewn field, which means estimating a meteorite’s exact location is difficult. Technology (metal detectors) helps ease this burden, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be complications. Inexpensive metal detectors are usually indiscriminate, and won’t be able to tell the difference between a nail or meteorite.
Earth sucks up about 40,000 tonnes of dusty material every year. The particles vary in size, and most of it fizzles out somewhere inside Earth’s upper atmosphere, becoming a shooting star. Some material will have enough mass to survive the entire plummet.
Do you see anything peculiar?
The rubble looks reminiscent of earthly soil. No sign of anything out of this world. Meteorites develop a distinct form of pitting on its surface while tumbling through the atmosphere—this is a feature that separates cosmic rocks from the stones taking up space inside of your garden.
There are a few variety of meteorites: iron, stone…and anything in between. Meteorites that contain both stone and iron properties tend to be more rare than the rocky variety.
Damn! Look at that mess.
The state of the early solar system must of been very similar! Stars form debris disks shortly after the core begins fusing hydrogen into helium. Hubble Space Telescope imaged a variety of these stellar babies, and their debris disk.
Do you see that weird lookin’ rock? Is that what I think it is? There’s only one way to find out!
We need to be careful…otherwise the specimen could be damaged. A little more work with the brush should reveal more characteristics.
Shit! The meteorite collapsed.
It’s okay. The space rock is pretty durable and probably suffered minimal damage. Wait…hold on…do you see that? Can it possibly be another meteorite? No way. Not possible.
Look at the size of that space invader! If it was a billion times larger, then it would of been a real planet buster! The type of thing that extinguishes lifeforms.
Here’s what the meteorites look like after all the dust has been lifted.
Color variations are subtle within the larger meteorite, while the smaller space invader’s hues are more distinguishable. Pitting it present along each of the meteorite’s surface, but it’s more apparent along the larger one’s surface.
It’s easy to take the rock underneath our feet for granted.
How many people go about their everyday life and not realize the accumulation of vast collisions forever hidden underneath Earth? We are truly standing on the shoulders of rocky giants.
Well. Kind of.
Thanks for sending the space invaders, Rose!
Do you want to excavate your own meteorite?