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Shooting Stars

No astronomy term is misused more frequently than the word meteor. It’s often used incorrectly, even by scientists, when meteoroid or meteorite is the accurate term. Here are the correct meanings:

  • A meteoroid is a small, solid object in space, usually a fragment from an asteroid or comet, orbiting the Sun. Some rare meteoroids are actually rocks blasted off Mars and the Earth’s Moon.
  • A meteor is the flash of light produced when a naturally occurring small, solid object (a meteoroid) enter’s Earth’s atmosphere from space; people often call meteors “shooting stars” or “falling stars”.
  • A meteorite is a solid object from space that has fallen to the surface of the Earth.
  • Source: Stephen P. Maran, Ph.D.

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