Asteroid vs. Meteor vs. Meteorite
What is the difference between an asteroid, a meteor and a meteorite?
All these sound confusing?
An asteroid is a rocky object that orbits the Sun. Asteroids are smaller than a planet, but they are larger than the pebble-size objects we call meteoroids.
These pebble-sized meteoroids are commonly called shooting stars.
Most asteroids are in the asteroid belt. Some objects in the asteroid belt are large enough to be considered dwarf planets such as Vest and Ceres, the two largest objects in the asteroid belt.
Although the asteroid belt is home to almost 2 million objects, there are plenty of wayward rocky objects or asteroids orbiting in our solar system.
A meteor is what happens when a meteoroid – a small piece of an asteroid or comet – burns up upon entering Earth’s atmosphere, creating a streak of light in the sky.
A meteor, if it large enough can create a fireball, which is larger than a shooting star. Each day and night thousands of fireballs streak through the skies. We may not see many because most of them occur over the oceans or during daylight hours. A meteor that explodes in Earth's atmosphere is called a bolide.
Sometimes one asteroid can smash into another. This can cause small pieces of the asteroid to break off. Those pieces are called meteoroids. Meteoroids can also come from comets.
If a meteoroid doesn’t vaporize completely in the atmosphere and survives their trip through Earth’s atmosphere and land on the Earth’s surface, it is called a meteorite. Scientists estimate that about 500 meteorites strike Earth's every year.