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 really 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? It is important to understand everyday 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.

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 the Mars and the 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 actually 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 vivid tails. 1972 great daylight fireball was the most famous earth grazer.
  • Fireballs are the common type of meteor, and they are bright and long-lasting than earth grazers. Their size may vary from a basketball to a small car.
  • Bolides are bigger than fireballs and they mostly explode in the atmosphere. Their explosion can be heard and felt on the earth as they produce a sonic boom.

Meteor Showers

When meteor shower occurs we can only see few meteors and the sky looks like filled with fireworks. When there is a meteor shower we van 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 that is named after a constellation is 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

Let us look at the differences between a meteor and meteorites to understand these concepts better.

Meteor Meteorite
Meteors are still up in the sky. Meteorites are on the earth.
Meteoroids break down in the earth’s atmosphere which results in the flash of light known meteors. Meteorites are the broken meteoroids that land on the earth.

The difference between a meteor and a meteorite is important to know 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.

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