What’s the difference between meteoroids, meteors, and meteorites?
Meteoroids are objects in space that range in size from dust grains to small asteroids. Most meteoroids are very small. When meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere at high speed and burn up, the fireballs or “shooting stars” are called meteors. When a meteoroid survives a trip through the atmosphere and hits the ground, it’s called a meteorite, but it is rare.
Several times a year, we experience “meteor showers,” when a larger number of meteors than usual pass through earth’s atmosphere. The best meteor shower is the Perseid meteor shower, which takes place in August each year. The meteoroids are actually related to the path of a comet, called Comet Swift-Tuttle. Comets leave trails of dust in their wake, and every year when the earth crosses that path, we get a meteor shower.
In 2022, the best time to view the Perseid meteor shower is around August 12. To observe them, you’ll have to stay up late! It’s best to get away from city lights, dress warmly and bring blankets and water with you. Lie on the ground and look up at the sky, and allow your eyes to adjust to the dark. You may be able to see as many as 60-100 meteors an hour!
Learn more about meteors using these resources, available using your Spokane Public Library card:
Book: How the meteorite got to the museum, by Jessie Hartland, 2013.
Impact! : asteroids and the science of saving the world , by Elizabeth Rusch, 2017. Includes material on meteors as well.
hoopla eBook: Meteoroids, Meteors, and Meteorites: Know the Difference, 2019
hoopla eBook: Meteors, by Melissa Stewart, 2018, published by National Geographic Kids.