The Difference Between Meteors, Meteorites, and Meteoroids


A Meteoroid

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:

Meteor Shower

A Meteor Shower - Note the Many Meteors

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.

A Meteorite

A Meteorite

So, the life of a meteoroid would go something like this:

Meteoroid > Meteor > Meteorite

Hopefully, that helped clarify these classifications for you!



33 Responses to “The Difference Between Meteors, Meteorites, and Meteoroids”

  • Alex says:

    i have been studyng about rocks and i went to africa and found a rock that has been a piece from a meteor and i kept it in my room

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  • Calista says:

    I’m doing a project on this. Good website( has lot’s of info).

    [Reply]

    Greg - Staff Writer replied:

    Glad to hear you like the site. We try hard to provide the best information on the Universe throughout the Universe!

    [Reply]

    Anonymous replied:

    A meteor is a heavenly body consisting of small pieces of stonesand metallic rocks. A meteorite is a part of meteor which does not burn on it’s entry to earth’s surface. A meteroid is an object which is smaller than any asteroid or comet.Infact a meteor is also a meteroid.

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  • John says:

    great website and good info
    I am going to do great on my report

    [Reply]

  • brenda says:

    so that’s it?..

    [Reply]

  • noah says:

    thanks this helps alot my science teacher yelled at me yesterday because i didnt know this so i hope today i can give him the right responce

    [Reply]

  • Jan says:

    This is the best website so far and I got an A+ at my project which needs to be at least 5 pages(front and back) long.I didn’t know where to go.

    [Reply]

  • anonymous says:

    I really enjoy this it is very helpful and made me understand a whole lot better I recommend this to everyone

    [Reply]

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