CHRIS BUTLER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY CHRIS BUTLER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Meteor. Artwork of a meteor entering the Earth's atmosphere above a populated landscape. This is a large rocky meteor, heated white hot by friction with the air, and illuminating the ground below. Very bright meteors are known as fireballs. Meteors the size of this one generally survive their passage through the atmosphere, and fall to the Earth as meteorites. Most are fragments of interplanetary debris left from the formation of the Solar System. A strike by a meteorite of any size in a populated area (such as the town at centre left) would be catastrophic, with extensive damage and loss of life. Around 500 meteorites hit Earth each year, landing mainly in the oceans.
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