Astronomy

Explain what causes a meteroroid to become a meterorite?

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December 22, 2014 4:27AM

A "meteoroid" is a rock floating around in space. Well, it isn't exactly "floating around"; it is falling in its own orbit around the Sun, and probably has been since the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago. (Or before.) When the space rock gets too close to the Earth, it is attracted by gravity, and it may enter the Earth's atmosphere.

When it enters the atmosphere, the compressive heat of slamming into the atmosphere at between 25,000 and 150,000 miles per hour causes it to heat to incandescence (red hot and glowing). The streak of light in the sky (not so much the burning-up space rock itself) is called a "meteor".

The space rock may explode into dust, or may break apart. If it breaks apart, and if any of the chunks manage to hit the Earth, the fragment is called a "meteorite".