Meteorite, Meteorwrong

What is a Meteorite?

Illustration by Don Davis

What is the difference between a meteor, meteoroid, and meteorite? Discover which space rock is which - the answer may surprise you!

All three are sometimes seen streaking across the sky and can be called shooting stars, but we call the same rock by different names depending on where it is in the atmosphere and beyond.

Meteoroids are flying objects in space that can be as small as dust or as large as small asteroids. Once the meteoroids enter a planet’s atmosphere, they are called Meteors. Meteors travel at high speeds and burn up as they travel through the atmosphere. When the rock manages to survive the trip through the atmosphere and hits the ground, it is called a meteorite

Illustration of a meteoroid burning up in Earth’s atmosphere.

Meteorites have been falling to Earth for literally hundreds of millions of years and continue to land here today. Most meteorites come from the asteroid belt, a ring of rocky debris orbiting the Sun between Jupiter and Mars. This belt formed 4.6 billion years ago. So, by studying meteorites, we can continue learning about the very origins of our solar system.