Visualizing Meteorites

May 1, 2018

This blog post is part of a series on the best data viz projects of my course at EPFL. This work has been done by Noemi Romano, Rehan Mulakhel, and Raja Soufi.

Rocks from the sky

Over human history, thousands of meteorites fell on Earth. Imagine chunks of rock and metal disaggregating in the atmosphere, sometimes hitting the ground and causing vast disasters from a natural and economical standpoint.

Let’s not even talk about the dinosaurs, obliterated by a strategically placed meteor that landed (softly) under the Yucatan Peninsula! If you think about it, we could be hit by a meteor any second, and endure the same fate!

If you want to buy a house, you better check the following data viz as it shows which locations have the most chances to be hit. It also raises important questions: why do some places have fewer chances to be targeted by rocks coming from space? Additionally, can we trust the data gathered by the Meteoritical Society?

If you didn’t know: the Meteoritical Society records all known meteorites in its Meteoritical Bulletin. It is composed of a thousand scientists and enthusiasts from 52 countries. Together, they study meteorites, cosmic dust, asteroids, comets, samples returned by space missions, impact craters, and the origins of the Solar System. The dataset gathered here is fairly complete as it includes the name of each meteorite, its class (based on its physical and chemical properties), mass, coordinates as well as the date of its discovery. Note that a meteorite can either be seen while falling or discovered afterward.

Without further ado, let’s explore the realm of meteorites!

Geo-meteorites visualization

This is a teaser of the live interactive data viz. Please click here to open it in another tab (wait a bit for the viz to load).

There are several key elements in the viz:

  • On the right, the rotating, zoomable, pannable globe
  • On the bottom, the moving, interactive timeline from 1802 to 2016. Key stories about specific events are also displayed on the right.
  • A histogram showing the total mass of meteorites that fell on Earth per year
  • On the left side, we have a Sankey diagram showing the overall mass distribution of chemical elements per country. The thickness of each line is proportional to the mass.
  • On top, you can also search for a specific country and filter the data accordingly.

To answer our initial interrogation, it seems that North Korea is a good place to settle ;). With only one reported meteorite, it definitely seems safe to live there… or maybe not.

North Korea geo meteorite
North Korea geo meteorite

Jokes aside, kudos to this great team for their awesome work. If you are interested in the gory details and see how the data viz was made, I invite you to have a look at their PROCESS BOOK.

Stay tuned for more data visualizations!

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