An asteroid only turns into a meteor if it falls to Earth

An asteroid only turns into a meteor if it falls to Earth
The difference between a meteor, meteoroid and asteroidMaxpixel
  • Some scientists think that it's only a matter of time before a city destroying asteroid or meteoroid actually falls to Earth.
  • The primary difference between an asteroid and a meteoroid is their size. Meteoroids are much smaller than asteroids.
  • Meteors aren't an object at all, they're just the path a meteoroid takes as it falls to Earth.
It’s only a matter of time before Earth gets hit by an asteroid — and the resulting impact could be worse than the after effects of a nuclear explosion.

Space agencies keep an eye out for these objects have come to realise that the asteroids having ‘near misses’ will Earth are a lot bigger than they previously through.

For instance, on 10 August, scientists were keeping watch on an asteroid as big as the Empire State Building as is barrelled closer to Earth. Thankfully, it was a good 4.6 million light years away, which may seem like a lot but is only a short distance in relative space.

A common misconception is that an asteroid is only a meteoroid if it falls to Earth. But that isn’t the case. The primary difference between the two is their size, with meteoroids being considerably smaller than asteroids but still much bigger than an atom, according to the International Astronomical Union.

And, a meteor isn’t actually an object at all. It’s the path that a meteor takes as it falls to Earth — commonly referred to as a shooting star.

Where do asteroids come from?


When the Big Bang took place 4.6 million years ago it formed the Sun and the planets but it didn’t use up everything from the gas and dust cloud. The leftovers are what we see as asteroids — most of them between Mars and Jupiter among the asteroid belt.

But that’s not the only place that they can be found.

These small, rocky objects that orbit the Sun like planets can also be found along the orbit of other planets. That means that they follow the same path as a planet around the sun.

How can you tell asteroids apart?

Despite their similarities, they’re not all the same. First of all, each one has a different shape. They’re are rounded like planets so the jagged edges on each of them are a unique marker to differentiate one asteroid from another.

And, just like the rocks on Earth, asteroids can also be differentiated by their material. Some are a collection of different rocks and other are made of clays and metals.

Asteroids also vary when it comes to size. They can be as big as the Empire State Building or the Pyramid of Giza, like the asteroids reported to have a near-miss with Earth, or they can be as small as pebbles.

When an asteroid is much smaller in size, it’s commonly referred to as a meteoroid.

Meteoroid vs asteroid

A meteoroid is smaller than an asteroid, so if it were to get pulled in by Earth’s gravity — it would likely burn up in the atmosphere.

And, as the meteoroid burns up, it creates a blaze of light behind it known as a shooting star — or a meteor. Hence, the name meteor showers. That’s when one larger meteoroid breaks into several pieces as it falls to Earth to create many shooting stars at the same time.

These meteors are largely harmless, but if one that were big enough were to pass through Earth’s atmosphere — it’s possible that there could be resulting shockwaves. In February 2013 when a meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, it created a shockwave that shattered windows with its airblast.

It’s because of the Chelyabinsk meteor that’s space agencies now keep a more vigilant eye out of space objects. Through monitoring these space rocks, experts have found that Earth gets hit by meteoroids more often than previously conceived.

See also:
It might not be 'dinosaur destroying' but it's only a matter of time before an asteroid hits Earth

An asteroid was supposed to hit Earth in September — but astronomers can’t seem to find it

A huge asteroid just flew past Earth - it didn't hit us, but others might