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The Difference Between Meteoroids, Meteors, and Meteorites

The names of meteoroids, meteors, and meteorites can be confusing. This short article will explain how they differ.

By Unravelling the UniversePublished 3 months ago 4 min read
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The Difference Between Meteoroids, Meteors, and Meteorites
Photo by Om Mishra on Unsplash

Here are two of my easy-to-understand stories regarding the universe and life.

British spelling

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My articles are not meant for people who have advanced knowledge of astronomy; we are not all experts on the subject.

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Meteoroids, Meteors, and Meteorites.

Long before the Solar System existed, there was an area in space that had a massive concentration of interstellar gas and dust. We know it now as a molecular cloud; this large area of space had a higher density than the surrounding areas.

Image credit. Aldebaran S on Unsplash.

Inside this cloud would eventually become the birthplace of our local star, the sun.

Extremely low temperatures caused the gas and dust to bond together, and these clumps grew larger as time went by. Then gravity started to pull the denser areas inward; this growing object was the beginning of a protostar, the early stage in the formation of a star.

Gravity continued to collapse the material into an object which was getting larger, hotter and denser, when a critical temperature of 15 million degrees Celsius was reached nuclear fusion took place in its core, and a main-sequence star was born, namely our Sun.

The sun holds more than 99% of the total mass in the solar system.

Image credit. NASA on Unsplash.

The nuclear fusion process in the newborn sun caused stellar winds to stream outward, stopping more debris from falling in.

Circling the newborn sun was the leftover material contained in a disc-shaped cloud called a solar nebula. It was inside this solar nebula that all the other celestial objects in the Solar System formed, like planets, dwarf planets, moons, etc.

The Sun is estimated to be 4.6 billion years old and for all of that vast time, smaller rocky, ice, and metallic bodies called asteroids have circled our local star.

Asteroids can sometimes collide with each other, causing fragments to break away. It is mostly these smaller fragments that we call meteoroids. When icy comets come close to the sun, the heat can melt the ice, dislodging small rocks, which also become meteoroids.

Meteoroids can be as small as grains of sand and can reach 100 metres in diameter; some larger space objects are called asteroids.

Image credit. Austin Schmid on Unsplash.

Sometimes the Earth passes through an area in space that has a higher density of meteoroids; some can enter the Earth's atmosphere, and when they do, they are known as meteors.

The smaller of them will burn up completely due to friction with the atmosphere. If the meteors are large enough, parts of them will land in the ocean or on dry land.

Objects that do land in the oceans or on land become known as meteorites. Over 90% of them are made of rock, and the remainder consists wholly or partly of iron and nickel.

The largest meteorite ever found is the Hoba meteorite, located in Namibia. This large chunk of iron is estimated to weigh over 60 tons.

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Why do we exist?

That is an easy question to ask but very difficult to answer.

By Oxana Melis on Unsplash

Many people don't believe in the evolution of life, but, as they say, everyone has their own beliefs. I cannot see a more plausible explanation for why we are here.

The universe came into existence around 13.8 billion years ago and has been evolving ever since. Our amazing planet, Earth, has existed for an estimated 4.5 billion years and continues to evolve.

The newborn Earth was very different from what we witness today; much of the Earth was in a molten state because of countless collisions with other celestial bodies, which led to extreme volcanism. The solar system was a very violent place billions of years ago.

Image credit. Toby Elliott on Unsplash.

It took a very long time for the molten Earth to cool down from its violent birth, but as it cooled, the new conditions allowed the first rain to fall from the sky, which began forming the oceans and lakes. It is thought that incoming asteroids and comets also contributed to the water we see today.

Every living thing needs water to exist.

71% of the Earth's surface is covered with water, and one estimate for the total amount of salt and fresh water is roughly 1,386,000,000 cubic kilometres.

Around 3.5 to 4 billion years ago, some elements came together in the oceans and formed the key substances that eventually led to life on our planet.

However, it must be said that it is not yet fully understood how primitive life started.

Around 500 million years ago, the first land plants appeared. Fossil records show that insects lived on the planet 400 million years ago.

Dinosaurs roamed the Earth 230 million years ago and unexpectedly died out 66 million years ago.

130 million years into the past is when flowering plants first appeared.

Image credit. Emma Svalstad on Unsplash.

Our early ancestors were living in Africa six million years ago; modern man, known as Homo sapiens, has been around for over two hundred thousand years. Civilisation as we know it has existed for six thousand years.

The evolutionary path for life on Earth has been very long, but at last, we have arrived.

Some animals have evolved to be stronger, larger, and faster than we are, and some can fly, and many never leave the water. But what sets us apart is that we have developed the most advanced brain.

That amazing brain has given us intelligence, curiosity, and the ability to carry out science, which provides a better understanding of the universe and life itself.

Consider yourself very special and unique; the odds against your existence are astronomical and extremely close to zero.

The end.

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You may find my easy-to-understand stories about the universe and life interesting and educational.

If you subscribe to me for free, you will see my latest stories. Regards.

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About the Creator

Unravelling the Universe

We can only imagine what our early ancestors thought as they gazed up at the night sky—were they curious about what the heavens had to hide? 

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  • Test3 months ago

    A B Forbes your articles provide valuable insights into complex scientific topics in an accessible and engaging manner. Keep up the great work!

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