The Difference Between Meteors, Meteorites, and Meteoroids
Did you know that the same object can become a meteor, a meteorite, and a meteoroid during its lifespan? How is that possible, and what is the difference between meteors, meteorites, and meteoroids?
Let’s start with the basics: An object that is flying through outer space, is smaller then an asteroid, and is not a comet is called a meteoroid. In other words, objects that are too small and insignificant to be considered an asteroid or a comet are classified as meteoroids. Here is a quick explanation of the difference between comets and asteroids:
Comets are icy objects that typically follow an orbit and glow when passing near the sun or another star. They generally range in diameter from a hundreds of meters to several kilometers in diameter. Larger objects that don’t display the properties of a comet are called asteroids instead.
A meteor is a meteoroid that is passing through the Earth’s atmosphere. In other words, the time during which you can see a meteoroid glowing and streaking through the night sky is the time that it would be considered a meteor. Meteors are also commonly called shooting stars or falling stars. When several meteoroids are passing through the Earth’s atmosphere, it is called a meteor shower.
Once a meteor has finished passing through the atmosphere and has struck the Earth’s surface, it is considered a meteorite.
So, the life of a meteoroid would go something like this:
Meteoroid > Meteor > Meteorite
Hopefully, that helped clarify these classifications for you!