Hoba meteorite

Impact site: Hoba West Farm, Namibia
Impact date: 80,000 years ago
Found: 1920
Size: 9 feet long, 3 feet high.
Made of: Mainly metallic iron. Largest lump of natural iron ever found.
Mass: Over 60 tonnes.

Mbozi meteorite

Impact site: Southern Tanzania
Impact date: Unknown, thousands of years ago.
Found: Locally known. Modern discovery 1930.
Size: 9.8 feet long, 3 feet high.
Made of: Mainly metallic iron. Silicate lumps. Nickel.
Mass: Over 16 tons.

Tucson meteorites

Impact site: Near Sonora, Mexico.
Impact date: Unknown, thousands of years ago.
Found: Locally long known. Modern discovery 1850.
Size: Ring-shaped piece 46 inches, 36 inches, 103 inches (max).
Made of: 92% metallic iron. 8% silicate. Mass: Ring--688 kilos. Anvil-shape--287 kilos.

Holsinger meteorite--a fragment of asteroid

Impact site: Barringer crater, Arizona.
Impact date: 50,000 years ago.
Found: Early 20th Century.
Size: Less than three feet long.
Made of: Mainly metallic iron.
Mass: 639 kilos. Represents less than 0.00003% of the original 150-foot asteroid that formed the three quarter mile-wide Meteor Crater.

Mbale meteorite

Impact site: Mbale, Uganda.
Impact date: 1992.
Size: Various.
Made of: Chondrite, low iron content.
Mass: Unknown, several fragments thought to have fallen. One 3g lump hit a young boy who was beneath a banana tree.

Willamette meteorite

Impact site: Willamette Valley, Oregon.
Impact date: Unknown, transported from site by ice age glacier 13,000 years ago.
Found: 1902.
Size: 10 feet, 6.5 feet, 4.25 feet.
Made of: 91% iron, 8% nickel.
Mass: <15 tons, but originally was heavier--acid caused by rainwater has eroded it to give it its pitted shape. It may be the most well-known meteorite, having been seen by 40 million visitors to museums.

Allende meteorite (fragment)

Impact site: Chihuahua, Mexico.
Impact date: February 8, 1969.
Size: This fragment, about five inches--original size estimated as automobile-scale. Debris field was over 50 kilometers long.
Made of: Chondrite stone, calcium, and aluminium.
Mass: Many tons for the original body. It's one of the most studied meteorites ever, and presence of the rare isotope aluminum 26 may have helped date a supernova that helped form our solar system to 2 million years ago.

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7 Incredible Meteorite Strikes Before Chelyabinsk

And they are far from alone. Thousands of tons of stuff falls from space every year. Here, a handful of the hottest rocks ever seen.

Last week a fallen space rock caused all sorts of chaos in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Its supersonic shock wave smashed buildings, injured about 1,000 citizens, and caused a boom in the trade of extra-terrestrial rock samples. A big reason it was so dramatic was the sheer size and mass of the rock— about 55 feet and 10,000 tons.

But Chelyabinsk's not alone. Every day tons of material rains down on Earth's atmosphere and some of it hits the ground. In Siberia there's a large enough population that can spot meteor events and find the remains. This obviously isn't the case for the Pacific ocean, which is hit by debris just as often.

Turns out, there's simply a lot of solid matter up there roaming the blackness near our Sun. Some of this stuff is rock, some of it is iron, some of it is made of rarer metals...and all of it is left over from the time when our planet was being formed, back when the Sun was a newborn star. And sometimes the path a lonely lump is following—one it has been on for billions of years—intersects with where our fragile little planet happens to be.

When it hits the atmosphere at terrific speeds (and I do mean terrific—think muuuuch faster than the speed of sound) friction heats the falling object up and nearly always burns it into a mere puff of ions. Most "shooting stars" you've seen are actually the result of a tiny lump of space rock whacking into the atmosphere like this. This, technically, is considered a meteor.

But bigger meteors can survive the fiery trip and do hit the ground. These are meteorites. Either the impact happens in the present and we seek out and find the debris, or it happened hundreds or thousands of years ago and debris is found much later when someone digs up a field to find something they weren't expecting.

Don't panic! Impacts are pretty rare. In the slides above, check out a bunch of the hot rocks that have, like David Bowie, fallen to Earth.

Chat about this news with Kit Eaton on Twitter and Fast Company too.

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