Astronomy and Space

Comets and Meteorites

How does a meteorite differ from a meteoroid?

A meteorite is a natural object of extraterrestrial origin that survives passage through Earth’s atmosphere and hits Earth’s surface. A meteorite is often confused with a meteoroid or a meteor. A meteoroid is a small object in outer space, generally less than 30 feet (10 meters) in diameter. A meteor (sometimes called a shooting star) is the flash of light seen when an object passes through Earth’s atmosphere and burns as a result of heating caused by friction. A meteoroid becomes a meteor when it enters Earth’s atmosphere; if any portion of a meteoroid lands on Earth, it is a meteorite.

There are three kinds of meteorites. Irons contain 85 percent to 95 percent iron; the rest of their mass is mostly nickel. Stony irons are relatively rare meteorites composed of about 50 percent iron and 50 percent silicates.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Science Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App