In Science and Space: According to NASA, about 48.5 tons (44 tons) of space rock, dirt and debris hit Earth every day. Fortunately, most of it dissipates completely in the atmosphere. Occasionally, however, some debris slips through and reaches the surface of the Earth, where it officially becomes a meteorite.
Scientists have long wondered how meteors survive their fiery entry into the atmosphere, which heats up to about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1649 degrees Celsius). But new research sheds some light on this mysterious process and suggests that the largest meteorites come from behind asteroids. Meteor astronomer Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center led the study of asteroid 2008 TC3, a six-meter-tall rock that entered the atmosphere in 2008. Given its size, astronomers were able to spot the asteroid, measure its size and shape, and track its precise trajectory about 20 hours before it collapsed. Collecting this kind of data is rare because many meteors are surprises.
Darrel Robertson, a theoretical astronomer with NASA’s Asteroid Threat Assessment Project (ATAP) at NASA’s Ames Research Center, used available data on the size, shape, and orbit of asteroid 2008 TC3 to identify the asteroid. We created a computer model to simulate the collapse of .