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Within the field of meteoritics, the study of meteorites, a critical distinction is drawn between meteorites observed to have fallen and those that have been found, with the latter far exceeding the former. According to the Meteoritical Bulletin Database published by the Meteoritical Society, 60,000 meteorites have been found on Earth but their falls were not observed by people or automated devices. Another 1,152 meteorite falls have been observed and recorded throughout human history. The total mass of all of these extraterrestrial bodies is about 621 tonnes, or more than seven-and-a-half times the weight of a Space Shuttle including its payload, according to estimates from the Measure of Things.

Today’s Viz of the Day provides a fascinating look into trends in number of meteorite falls, the size and age of meteorites, and where meteorites have fallen worldwide. Use our interactive visualizations to explore and share the following fun facts:

  • On average, five meteorite falls have been observed each year since 1800. So far this year, there have been three confirmed meteorite falls: Osceola and Mount Blanco, USA, and Stubenberg, Germany. The heaviest of the three, the meteorite that struck in Germany, weighs about 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs).
  • The heaviest meteorite whose fall from space has been observed is the 23 tonne Sikhote-Alin meteorite that fell in 1947 in Russia. Among more recent falls, the largest - weighing in at 1 tonne - was observed three years ago in Russia. Even larger meteorites have been found, including the 60 tonne Hoba meteorite discovered in 1920 in Namibia and the nearly equal in weight Cape York meteorite found in 1818 in Greenland.
  • The oldest documented case of a potential meteorite fall dates back to 465 BC: the Aegospotami meteorite, Greece. However, this meteorite and many others prior to 1700 AD are not well-documented and thus scientists classify them as “doubtful falls.” In the category of found meterorites, the oldest, the Suavjärvi meterorite discovered in Russia, is estimated to be about 2,400 million years old.

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