What is the Difference Between Asteroid and Meteorite

The difference between asteroid and meteorite is all in the naming. Asteroids are in the space, but when it enters the atmosphere and reaches the surface of a planet, we call it a meteorite.

Meteors, meteoroids, meteorites, and asteroids are all objects that originate in the space. Asteroids are large rocky objects that orbit the Sun while meteoroids are smaller objects that orbit the Sun. When an asteroid or a meteoroid enters the atmosphere of a planet, we call it a meteor. Moreover, when it enters the atmosphere and reaches the surface of a planet, we call it a meteorite.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is an Asteroid 
     – Definition, Characteristics
2. What is a Meteorite
     – Definition, Characteristics
3. Difference Between Asteroid and Meteorite
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Asteroid, Meteors, Meteoroid, Meteorite, Planetoid

Difference Between Asteroid and Meteorite - Comparison Summary

What is an Asteroid

Asteroids are large rocky objects that orbit the Sun. They are smaller than planets but larger than meteoroids, which are usually pebble-sized. Our solar system has millions of asteroids. Most asteroids in the solar system are in the main asteroid belt, between the two planets Mars and Jupiter. But some asteroids are also found in other locations. For example, some asteroids orbit the Sun in a path that brings them close to Earth.

Difference Between Asteroid and Meteorite

Sometimes, we call asteroids minor planets or planetoids, but asteroids are rocky bodies that have no atmosphere. However, some asteroids have their own moons. The size of an asteroid can range from a few meters to hundreds of kilometres. Asteroid Ceres is the largest asteroid, with a diameter about 952 km. It’s so large that it is sometimes categorized as a dwarf planet.

Most asteroids are composed of rocks, but if we look at their composition closely, we can note metal, mainly nickel and iron. NASA states that a small portion of asteroids may be burnt-out comets whose ice have evaporated and blown off into space.

What is a Meteorite

A meteorite is a solid piece of debris from a comet, asteroid, or meteoroid that originates in outer space and survives its passage through the atmosphere to reach the surface of a planet. When the object, i.e., asteroid, comet, etc., enters the atmosphere, factors like pressure, friction and chemical reactions with atmospheric gases cause it to heat up and radiate energy. Then it becomes a meteor and forms a fireball. We also call these shooting stars or falling stars.

Main Difference - Asteroid vs Meteorite

Traditionally, there are three categories of meteorites: stony meteorites, metallic meteorites, and stony metallic meteorites. As their names imply, stony meteorites are rocks, mainly composed of silicate minerals while metallic meteorites mostly contain iron and nickel. Stony metallic minerals contain both metallic and rocky materials. Meteorites have varying sizes. It can range from about the size of a pebble (a fraction of a gram) to 100 kilograms or more (the size of a huge, boulder). Micrometeorites is the name given for meteorites smaller than 2mm.

Difference Between Asteroid and Meteorite

Definition

Asteroids are large rocky objects that orbit the Sun while meteorites are solid pieces of debris from a comet, asteroid, or meteoroid that originate in the outer space and survives its passage through the atmosphere to land on the surface of a planet.

Location

Asteroids are in space while meteorites reach the surface of a planet.

Conclusion

Asteroids are large rocky objects that orbit the Sun while meteorites are solid pieces of debris from a comet, asteroid, or meteoroid that originate in the outer space and survives its passage through the atmosphere to land on the surface of a planet. In other words, the difference between asteroid and meteorite is all in the naming. Asteroids are in the space, but when it enters the atmosphere and reaches the surface of a planet, we call it a meteorite.

Reference:

1. “Meteors & Meteorites.” NASA, 25 Jan. 2019, Available here.
2. Mann, Adam. “What Are Meteorites?” Space.com, Space, 5 Dec. 2018, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Asteroid belt landscape” By Pablo Carlos Budassi – Own work (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Meteoroid meteor meteorit” By Anynobody – created with Blender (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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