Difference between a Meteor and a Meteorite

Ever saw a shooting star in the night sky and wondered how a star falls? Or is it a star or some other foreign body that we see flying down? What is this flashy object called? A meteor, an asteroid, or a comet? How do we differentiate between these objects? The earth is bombarded with more than tons of space dust and other tiny objects. There are times when a car-sized asteroid enters the earth’s atmosphere but burns even before reaching the earth’s surface.

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What Is Meteorite?

When two asteroids collide with each other, there is a small piece that breaks off these asteroids. These pieces from asteroids after the collision is known as a meteorite. It is believed that meteorites usually originate from the asteroid belt, which is present between Mars and Jupiter. The size of a meteorite might vary from less than a gram to tons.

What Is Meteor?

When a meteorite hits the earth’s atmosphere, it does it with a high velocity, which makes it look flashy and like a fireball. Therefore, shooting stars are meteors and not stars. There are different types of meteors, depending on their sizes and brightness.

Types of Meteors

  • Earth grazers are the meteors that streak close to the horizon and have the longest and most vivid tails.
  • Fireballs are a common type of meteor, and they are bright and more long-lasting than earth grazers. Their size may vary from a basketball to a small car.
  • Bolides are bigger than fireballs and mostly explode in the atmosphere. Their explosion can be heard and felt on the earth as they produce a sonic boom.

Meteor Showers

When a meteor shower occurs, through appropriate optical tools, the sky seems to be filled with fireworks. When there is a meteor shower, we can notice that all the meteor shower takes place from one point, and this point is known as the radiant point. Meteor showers are named after the constellation. The most commonly known meteor shower named after a constellation is the Leonid meteor shower. The shower appears to be falling from the constellation, but the source is the comet Tempel-Tuttle.

Difference between a Meteor and a Meteorite

To understand these concepts better, let us look at the differences between a meteor and a meteorite.

Meteor Meteorite
Meteors do not land on the surface of the earth. Meteorites land on the surface of the earth.
Meteoroids break down in the earth’s atmosphere, which results in the flash of light known as meteors. Meteorites are the broken meteoroids that land on the earth.

The difference between a meteor and a meteorite is important as people often think both these terms mean the same. To know more about other differences like Difference Between Asteroid And Meteoroid or asteroid and comet differences, etc.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs


What is a meteor?

A meteor is a celestial object (generally made of rocks and metals) that enters the atmosphere of the earth and burns out completely before reaching the surface. Most of them typically vaporise at heights between 80km and 130km.

What is a meteorite?

A meteorite is a celestial object (made of rocks and metals) that enters the atmosphere of the earth and reaches the surface. Meteorites are bigger than meteors which can hit the surface.

What is an asteroid?

An asteroid is a compact, rocky celestial object that orbits the Sun. Even though asteroids revolve around the Sun-like stars, they are smaller than all the planets. The asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter is the biggest cluster of asteroids in the solar system.

What is a comet?

A comet is a small, icy celestial body that glows as it warms and releases gases when travelling near the Sun. This generates a temporary coma or atmosphere around it, which might extend into a tail.

Which is the biggest impact crater on the earth?

The Vredefort crater in South Africa is the biggest impact crater on the earth.

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