Comets and meteorites – step 6

After having talked about the sun and different planets in our planetary system, Willy continues his book in page 93, talking about comets  and meteors. He call them in German Weltsplittern, remains of destroyed worlds. A proof for this was according to him a comet, that fell 1885 August 10 in the village of Grazac. When a part of it was heated they experienced a bituminous odor that Willy  said has organic origins. That meteor could only come from a planet with vegetation.  I have understood that the Grazac meteorite may have been a carbonaceous chondrite. About these meteorites “its most notable components are amino acids and nucleic acids, both of which are fundamental to life on Earth. Similar organic matter would have been raining down on the early Earth in comets, meteorites, and micrometeorites, but at present it is not known if this influx from space played any role in the evolution of life.” ( Source:  )

Meteors containing iron have for him either “volcanic” or “cosmic origin”. He tells about different meteors: I have found  observations of some of them, documented on internet. See eg the Madrid meteor i write about below. He tells about meteor velocities in space, about their entrance in the atmosphere and how their velocity is diminished by 1/30. He also explain why remains meteors remains are more easily found in snow and ice covered  regions in the north like in Luleå and Greenland. Talking about were iron in meteors comes from, he also talk about the earth crust thickness, being between 50 and 60 km deep.

What are meteorites and comets

Before we continue it is important to make a clear distinction between the terms “meteorites” and “comets”


“Comets are small celestial bodies that appear in the night sky as a ball inside a long, thin envelope of visible light. They are composed of water, frozen gasses and dust not incorporated into larger heavenly bodies at the dawn of the universe.” ( Source: )

contains a nice vocabulary of frequently used terms.

Comet: “A smaller celestial body mainly composed of ice and dust. If a comet approaches the Sun it can generate a tail of gas and/or dust.”
Meteorite: “The part of a meteoroid or asteroid that survives the passage through our atmosphere and reaches the Earth’s surface.”

So a meteorite is simply either a meteoroid (Similar to an asteroid, but significantly smaller. Mostly debris of comets, sometimes debris of asteroids.) or a asteroid that has reached the Earth surface. (source: “” ) Willy clearly and correctly explain the nature of comets (as carrying stones and ice with vapors in their tales) he  does however not explain the term meteorite, probably as they did not know about this at his time. He just discusses the origin of the meteorites as being either cosmic, volcanic or planetary with biospheres carrying organic material. He mentions iron meteorites.

“Made of nearly solid nickel iron the Iron Meteorites are a smaller and rarer group of meteorites then the stone group.” (Source : )


“Meteors are what are typically known as “shooting stars.” They appear as a visible streak of light created when a larger body of miscellaneous space debris, properly known as a meteoroid, enters the atmosphere of the Earth. Meteoroids vary in size, but the great majority of meteoroids that pass through the atmosphere each year are no larger than a pebble.” ( Source: )

iron meteorites Handbook



An iron meteor has been found on mars. The largest known iron meteor landed  80000 years ago in Hoba in Africa probably with slow speed as there was no crater around it. Its weight was 66 tons and it was  nine feet long by nine feet wide by three feet thick. It is composed of about 84% iron, 16% nickel, and trace amounts of cobalt and other metals. (Source:   ttp:// ) These metals were created at supernova. So the origin of Willys iron meteors may all have supernova origins. The age of the meteors are studied analyzing the atomic decays of among other radioactive atoms in the specimens.

Hoba Meteorite - world's largest
Source : )

You can buy iron meteorites at

Meteor craters

A 545.7 m diameter meteor created the Arizona meteor crater 20 000 years ago.

Meteor Crater Panorama




The Tanguska event 1908 happened after Willys publication of his book. I think however it is very interesting even though we do not know the origin of this event.


1885 August 10 Grazac
recorded as a pseudometeorite

Willys talked about the event in Grazac 1885. We know today that it was  “An object that has been claimed to be a meteorite, but which is nonmeteoritic in origin.”.

(Source:  )

Sveral meteorites like the one in Grazaccontain organic materials. See
“the complex structure of the organic materials present in carbonaceous chondrites, such as the Tagish Lakemeteorite.”
Wthout knowing about it, mentioning the Grazac meteor organic discovery, Willy was touching one of the keys of the origin and evolution of life. His hypothesis was that tmeperature resistant bacteria spores brought life to Earth. I will be back on this in my next post.

The Madrid meteor

friend of mine living in Catalonia did not know about this event. This even Willy told about in his book, is  documented in spectator.

“But it is not every day that a fireball is so considerate as to choose a great city for the scene of its dramatic entrance and exit.”.

rad more in

“Report on the bolide that exploded over Madrid on the 10th of February 1896”

As I am afraid this document may disappear from internet I copied the Text  from the site above as is

“On Monday, February 10th, at 9h 29m 30s, there was observed an instantaneous bluish-white illumination in the atmosphere, so strong and vivid as to be visible in the inner rooms and in the open air.

The day was a magnificent one; blue sky, no wind and a radiant sun. Soon after there was plainly visible near the zenith and some few degrees to the SE, a white spot, like smoke, bearing NE to SW of about 6 degrees in length and 1 degree in width; its form was semicircular with the convexity turned to the east. In the center and near the apex of the curve, it presented a condensation of a reddish color, similar to that of clouds at sunset. The general appearance of the spot was that of a cirro-cumulus.

At 9.30am 40s there was heard a deep and very strong detonation, accompanied by many others not so intense, similar to the noise produced by a large cannonball rolling along the upper story of a house. This noise was very prolonged; it was found to last two minutes.

Meanwhile the vibration of windows and partitions (not the thick walls) was extraordinary and the rattling of panes of glass alarming. In some houses all the window-panes were broken.

Judging from the time which elapsed between the light and the sound of the first detonation, the meteor exploded in the air at a distance not less than 24km (15 miles) and this number is evidently too low.

Considering the aspect of the spot of smoke, it seems probable that the meteor proceeded from the SE towards the NW and near the zenith of Madrid it exploded.

Changed into smoke and dust, totally or partially, this smoke was carried away the upper currents of the atmosphere to the east. We find here a splendid confirmation of the theory which supposes that at the upper limits of the air, the wind moves from west to east.

The cloud continued its course to the ENE, dissolving gradually away and at 3pm it was still perfectly visible like a light cirrus in the east some 20 degrees above the horizon.

The compression of the atmosphere at the instant of the conflagration was indicated by the registering barometers. In the aneroids, the trace is small but the mercurial one shows that the column rose 1.6mm and lowered 0.7mm, the amplitude of the total oscillation being 2.3mm

In the neighborhood of Madrid, some fragments of the meteorite fell and I have obtained one of them. Externally the fragment is of a black metallic aspect; inside it is of white stony appearance, with some brilliant points like nickel; it weighs 6.3mm grams.

From information received later; it appears that the phenomenon was visible in a large part of the Peninsula from Sierra de Estrella (Portugal) on the Mediterranean coast and from Segovia to Aguilas or a distance of 700kms from E to W and 400kms from N to S.

Augusto Arcimis, Director of the Observatory.

Posted July 4, 2008



Published in: on October 19, 2017 at 9:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

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