|Carlos Martiez and his meteorite found on Memorial Day.|
Photo from here.
When my son was growing up, I noticed a gopher snake in our yard. Determined to show him that not all women were afraid of snakes, I gritted my teeth and reviewed my knowledge (or made up a theory) of how to pick up a snake: grab him behind the head and grab his tail. I wasn't sure if he'd be cold and slimy or hot, but thought that I could deal with that. What I didn't factor in was that this snake was about 4' of sheer muscle. When I successfully grabbed him, he gave one big muscle contraction, I threw him into the air and yelled "RUN!!" So much for images...
A bit of terminology: A meteoroid is a pice of rock or ice moving through space, the term generally applied to objects smaller than asteroids. A meteor is a meteoroid that has entered the earth's atmosphere, a shooting star. Most meteors smaller than a pea will burn up in the atmosphere due to friction with the atmosphere as the fall. A meteorite is a meteor that survives its descent.
Typical velocities of encounter with the earth are 11 km/second for objects that come in from the asteroid belt, and 51 km/second for comets. It is likely that this small heart-shaped meteorite broke off a larger body that was entering the atmosphere and was slowed way down by friction with the atmosphere. Still, Carlos is lucky that it landed in his lawn and not in his house! The chances of a meteorite hitting a house are small, but it has happened. In 2003 hundreds of fragments of a meteorite fell in the Park Forest area of Chicago, several fell through roofs of houses and one through the roof of a fire station. In the same year, a 20 kg (~44 pound) stone meteorite crashed through a two-story house in New Orleans, landing in the basement. Poor Mrs. Hodges, asleep on a couch, was hit on the hip by a 10 pound stone meteorite in 1954...and lived to tell about it!
For those who would like to learn about the types of meteorites, here's a primer.