Despite their small physical size, asteroids, meteoroids, meteorites, and meteoroids offer important clues about the formation of our solar system. And despite their importance, their names are often used interchangeably. So what is the difference?
The meteor, from the Greek “Meteora” (what is high in the air), refers to any atmospheric phenomenon observed an aurora borealis, a lightning bolt, a rainbow, and in particular, any celestial body that penetrates the atmosphere; we will then speak of a shooting star, while the meteorite is a fragment of a celestial body that hits the ground of a star (like the Earth). But for meteoroids, they are particles whose orbit around the Sun leads it sooner or later to collide with the Earth or, by analogy, with a planet or a satellite.
Astronomy, like all sciences, hates approximations, and if in everyday language, the notions of meteorite and meteor are sometimes associated or even confused, they are quite different, however, the meteorite definition in astronomy it’s when two of these asteroids collide. Such a crash produces a lot of debris and splinters. These fly away from their previous orbit, right across the solar system. Some of them come close to the earth, are attracted by it and fall to the earth. These crashing chunks are called meteorites.
On Earth, they would literally fall from the sky like a stone – if it weren’t for the atmosphere. This is because meteorites are so fast that the air cannot escape to the side fast enough. The air begins to glow and the meteorite begins to evaporate. We can then see this as a glowing strip that moves across the sky – a shooting star. Most meteorites are so small that they burn up completely on their way through the air. The tracer then simply ends in the sky. Larger debris also loses mass on the way, but does not evaporate completely. They reach the ground and impact there.
What these meteorites do to the earth depends on how big they are. Small meteorites with a diameter of a few centimeters, for example, leave just a dent in the roof of a car.
The meteor has a broader meaning, indeed to recognize the difference among Meteor or Meteorite, you need to know that the term meteorite is the phenomenon of a meteor that, after passing through the atmosphere, reaches the solid surface of a planet & hits the ground, and after impact its fragments can be recognized. These fragments then take the name of meteorite. Also, craters are made by meteorites and not by meteors.
When an asteroid, comet, or a fragment of one enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it becomes a meteor. The light trail left by the heating of the object (mostly just dust) is called a shooting star.
And if we want to distinguish between meteor vs asteroids it comes that Asteroids are small planets in orbit around the Sun-like large planets. The largest, Ceres, barely reaches a diameter of 1000 km, followed by Pallas, Vesta, and Juno. There are billions of them and their number grows in proportion to their small size. They are both different in size, shape, color, etc.. But the total mass of all asteroids is less than that of the Moon. They gravitate mostly between Mars and Jupiter, whereas a meteorite is one of those objects that reach the surface of the Earth or any other star without having completely disintegrated. When a stony meteorite reaches a size between ten and one hundred meters, it explodes in the atmosphere and reaches the ground as dust.
Otherwise, asteroids and meteoroids do also have a connection between them, the term meteoroid is that of the object in interplanetary space. It is a small body in the Solar System resulting from the (usually partial) disintegration of an asteroid or a cometary nucleus.
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