Why Do Meteors Explode?

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Meteors definitely explode, but only if a very specific type of situation has taken place. Find out why meteors explode with help from an experienced education professional in this free video clip.

Part of the Video Series: About Astrophysics & Outer Space
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Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Eylene Pirez and I'm an astrophysicist. And this is, "Why do meteors explode?" So, sometimes we see the streak of light and then, we see an explosion. This is actually fairly common. So what are the forces that are causing that meteor to explode? Let's say that this is Earth, the Earth's surface and let's say that this is a meteor. And I'll put it in an envelope. It's generally composed of a lot of rock and ices. And it's coming with a lot of speed. These objects can speed up to 50,000 miles an hour, it's fairly, fairly fast. So, it's burning through the friction of the atmosphere. So, all the molecules in the air are causing friction against the surface and they're heating up the object. Also, we have this force of resistance, we'll call air force. And this resistance force is pretty much pushing this layer, this part of the rock. It's not pushing the top ones. So, at this point what is happening is that the force of the air is crushing the actual meteor. So, it fragments this and it's starts compressing and compressing the rock. So, some of the material cannot be compressed nearly as much. So it also depends on how much rock and what's the composition of the meteor. So, if the force of the air, if the air resistance is way stronger than the actual compressive force of the meteor. It's going to crush it to pieces and this is going to explode. And this is when we see this. So, it has to be the resistant force of the atmosphere, breaking the meteor into pieces and just collapsing the meteor entirely. And this is why they actually explode. My name is Eylene Pirez and I'm an astrophysicist. And this is why meteors explode.


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