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Types of Meteorites


There are three general types of meteorites, classified according to the ratio of stony to metallic material.

 

The relative abundances of stony, iron, and stony-iron meteorites as

represented by all known meteorites (combined observed falls and finds).

More than 44,500 different meteorites are know, of which

 

1) Stony meteorites.  These are, by far, the most common type of meteorite.  Stony meteorites are made of primarily of silicate minerals, similar to those in ordinary Earth rocks, plus small quantities of metal.  The metal occurs as millimeter-sized flakes scattered throughout the stony matrix.  Like earth rocks, stony meteorites are brittle and would fracture if struck by a hammer.  The specimen shown to the left below is a weathered stony meteorite with a typical rusty-brown surface.

 

2) Iron meteorites.  These are much less common, but their unusual composition (nearly 100% Fe-Ni metal) and great heft favor recognition by the layman.  Therefore, irons meteorites tend to be overrepresented in meteorite collections (compared to their actual fall frequency).  Iron meteorite are strong and ductile; a hammer blow will do little damage.  The middle specimen below has been cut on the front side.  The specimen exhibits rust-colored crust and bright, fresh metal on the cut face.

 

3) Stony-Iron meteorites.  The rarest type of meteorite, stony-irons, are composed of roughly equal amounts of stone and metal.  The specimen shown to the right below is a slice that highlights the boundaries between stony material (darkly colored) and bright metal.

 

The three main types of meteorites: stony (left), iron (middle), and stony-iron (right).

 

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