What’s the difference between a meteor, meteoroid and meteorite?
They’re all related to the flashes of light called “shooting stars” sometimes seen streaking across the sky. But we call the same object by different names, depending on where it is.
Meteoroids are objects in space that range in size from dust grains to small asteroids. Think of them as “space rocks."
When meteoroids enter Earth’s atmosphere (or that of another planet, like Mars) 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.
Go farther. Explore Meteors and Meteorites In Depth ›
FAQ: What is a Meteor Shower?
Scientists estimate that about 48.5 tons (44 tonnes or 44,000 kilograms) of meteoritic material falls on the Earth each day. Almost all the material is vaporized in Earth's atmosphere, leaving a bright trail fondly called "shooting stars." Several meteors per hour can usually be seen on any given night. Sometimes the number increases dramatically—these events are termed meteor showers.
Meteor showes occur annually or at regular intervals as the Earth passes through the trail of dusty debris left by a comet. Meteor showers are usually named after a star or constellation that is close to where the meteors appear in the sky. Perhaps the most famous are the Perseids, which peak in August every year. Every Perseid meteor is a tiny piece of the comet Swift-Tuttle, which swings by the Sun every 135 years.
How to Photograph a Meteor Shower
Taking photographs of a meteor shower can be an exercise in patience as meteors streak across the sky quickly and unannounced, but with these tips – and some good fortune – you might be rewarded with a great photo.
These tips are meant for a DSLR or mirrorless camera, but some point-and-shoot cameras with manual controls could be used as well.