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When the skyes are falling

Records of meteorites that hit the Earth's surface over the centuries, in two visualizations

May 31, 2013

In the past 15th February, the asteroid 2012 DA14 passed very close to Earth, although there was no danger of collision.

The event was the basis for the production of various infographics about the fall of meteorites on Earth’s surface. This publication is dedicated to taking a closer look at two of them:

1. Bolides

Captura de ecrã - 2013-05-29, 18.00.24

This interactive infographic provides the reader a visual context highly suggestive on the subject through an animation.

The various meteorites that hit the earth’s surface are identified in a timeline, with information of the places where they have fallen and the respective mass.

Captura de ecrã - 2013-05-29, 17.19.53

It is particularly interesting how various information about meteorites are simultaneously communicated to the reader:  the timeline can be accessed in each time interval, the data on the number of meteors that hit Earth’s surface and the  mass of each one.


Further information about the meteorites (place where it fell and exact mass) is available when passing the mouse over the line data.

If the reader wants to know more details, he/she can have them by selecting the option (+):


By selecting (+), it is possible to know the the name and type of the meteorites.

The infographics has yet a fourth layer of information, that is activated by selecting one of the options highlighted below:


These icons allow, respectively, locate on the map, the place where the meteorite fell and also give access to further scientific information about the meteorite in question by linking to the website of The Metereological Society.


2. 500 Years of Witnessed Meteors

This is another interactive infographic about the record of meteorites that have been hitting the earth’s surface for  several centuries.

Although visually very different from the former, this infographics is based on the same information.

I found it interesting that it is not focused on the event of the meteorite fall, but in geographical locations where they fell.

Captura de ecrã - 2013-05-30, 15.02.09

As in “Bolides”, here it is also possible to relate the distribution of masses by selecting the years when the impacts occurred:


Mousing over a marked on the map, the reader may also have access to information about the mass of each meteorite, year of impact and type.


Captura de ecrã - 2013-05-30, 16.54.02


I believe the previous infographics is communicatively more effective because the information is divided into more “layers”, allowing the reader to decide on the degree of the information’s complexity  he/she seeks and, that, on the other hand, reduces the “noise” that comes from the coexistence of information of different complexities in the same level of exploitation (that exists in this infographic)

By  “existence of noise” I mean, specifically, that the name of the meteorite, the year of impact and the mass (a concept commonly used) have a different complexity level than “type of meteorite” – a more specialized concept – and yet  they coexist in the same exploration layer.

This infographics also provides  (as “Bolides”) an external link to the website of The Metereological Society.

Aesthetically, the infographics “Bolides” is more appealing for recreating the sky and the fall of meteorites on the terrestrial surface, providing a visual context that allows a greater sense of the theme.

These are only two of many interesting infographics about meteorites impact on the terrestrial surface, worth searching on the Internet.


Written by Susana Pereira

Susana Simões Pereira, maths teacher and PhD in science teaching and communication. I enjoy games and photography and I'm passionate for science and art, specially when together in the same context. You can follow my updates on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.