Space is not just about the stars and planets. There are objects of different sizes floating around in space. Some of these are just tiny grains of dust whereas others are just as big as boulders or even larger. You can think of them as space rocks. These rocks form when large celestial bodies such as comets or asteroids collide with each other, and their pieces break off. When these space rocks enter into a planet’s atmosphere, they either become meteors or meteorites, depending on whether they touch down or not. So, meteors and meteorites both are rocks from space that enter the Earth’s or just any planet’s atmosphere. Read on to know more about meteors and meteorites, and their similarities.
What is a Meteor?
Sometimes meteoroids get too close to a planet, for example, Earth, and they get pulled into the Earth’s atmosphere. These are small rocks or particles from space that come at a very high speed and burst into flames as they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. This creates a glowing streak in the sky, which can be very pretty to watch. We often confuse them with fireballs or shooting stars, but they are not stars. So, such meteoroids which enter the atmosphere of Earth (or just any planet) and burn up are called meteors.
What is a Meteorite?
Not all meteoroids that enter the Earth’s atmosphere make it to the ground. They, however, do not fully burn up and survive their encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere, and finally hit the ground. These space rocks are instead called meteorites. Planet Earth is constantly being hit by rocks from space. As Earth is mostly water, most of these rocks are lost to the oceans. The vast majority of these rocks are never even recovered. Most meteorites that hit the ground come from the Asteroid Belt.
Similarities between Meteors and Meteorites
- Origin and Composition – Both meteors and meteorites originate from space as burning lumps of rock or metal called meteoroids. When such meteoroids enter the atmosphere of Earth (or just any planet) and burn up, they are called meteors. However, some meteoroids do not completely burn up and survive their encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere, and finally make a touchdown. They are called meteorites. They contain elements found in the Earth’s crust, such as iron, nickel and silicates.
- Extraterrestrial Nature – Meteors and meteorites both are extraterrestrial in nature meaning they are celestial objects, rocks to be specific, that originate from outer space. These objects contain cosmic dust and meteorites. They provide valuable insights into the formation and evolution of the solar system. Scientists can learn about the conditions that existed during the early stages of the celestial neighborhood by studying their composition and structure.
- Size – Meteoroids vary significantly in size; they could be as tiny as grains of dust or just as big as boulders or small asteroids. Meteors are typically small in size, ranging from a grain of sand to a pebble. Meteorites, on the other hand, can range in size from a few centimeters to several meters. Some extremely large meteorites weighing several tons have been discovered. But most of the debris that hit the ground is dust shed by comets travelling through the solar system.
- Impact Craters – When meteoroids are large enough to survive the trip through the Earth’s atmosphere, they can collide with the ground, creating an impact crater. They typically form when a natural object from space collides with Earth or other planets and their satellites. They can cause considerable geological disturbances and leave a permanent mark on the Earth’s surface. Meteors and meteorites both have the potential to create impact craters, though meteorites rarely hit the ground intact.
While meteors and meteorites are very celestial objects, they share many common features or characteristics, such as their origin, extraterrestrial nature, size, potential to create impact craters, and so on. While meteors are visible streaks of light in the sky that burn up as they reach Earth’s atmosphere, meteorites are valuable fragments that survive the trip and make it to the ground. Meteorites are the remnants of the debris (meteoroids) that reach the surface of the Earth (or just any planet).
What are the characteristics of meteors and meteorites?
Meteors are visible streaks of light in the sky that burn up as they reach Earth’s atmosphere and meteorites are the remnants of the debris (meteoroids) that reach the surface of the Earth (or just any planet). Meteoroids are the precursors to meteors when they enter the Earth’s atmosphere. They could be as tiny as grains of dust or just as big as boulders or small asteroids.
What are the similarities and differences between an asteroid meteor meteorite and a shooting star?
Asteroid – An asteroid is a small planet or rocky remnants that orbit the Sun in the main Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids do not enter the atmosphere of a planet.
Meteor – A meteor is a visible phenomenon that occurs when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up as it enters the atmosphere. It appears in the sky as a streak of light, also called as a shooting star.
Meteorite – A meteorite is a remnant of debris (meteoroids) that reach the surface of the Earth. Most meteorites that hit the ground come from the Asteroid Belt.
Shooting Star – It is a colloquial term used to describe the visible streak of light that appeared when meteoroids enter the atmosphere of our planet or another planet and burn up.
What is one similarity between asteroid meteors and meteorites?
When some fragments of an asteroid as a result of collisions or other forces enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they are called meteors. However, some fragments survive the journey and impact the surface of the Earth. They are called meteorites.
What is the difference between meteoroids meteors and meteorites?
Meteoroids are space rocks that are formed when large celestial bodies such as comets or asteroids collide with each other, and their pieces break off. Such meteoroids which enter the atmosphere of Earth (or just any planet) and burn up are called meteors. Some meteoroids, however, survive the trip and do not burn up, finally hitting the ground. They are meteorites.
Do meteors or meteorites hit Earth?
Both meteors and meteorites enter the atmosphere of the Earth, but only meteorites do not burn up while entering and survive the trip, finally hitting the ground.