The causes of Meteors and Meteorites

When a comet enters our solar system, it typically heats up drastically as it passes the sun, causing large chunks of ice to break off the tail, and rocks to break off from the comet’s head. This loose debris can be contained within our solar system indefinitely, and eventually become the cause of meteors and meteorites.

When the remaining comet debris enters Earth’s atmosphere at great speeds, the resulting friction will often cause the rock to heat up intensely, essentially burning as it drops through the many layers of our planet’s atmosphere. As they burn, streaks of fire are left seemingly falling through the sky, and interpreted by many stargazers below as shooting stars. If the debris is completely burned before making contact with Earth’s surface, it is referred to as a meteor. Meteor showers, therefore, occur when Earth passes directly through a comet’s debris.

Pieces of debris which are large enough and strong enough to survive the burning friction of our atmosphere and make impact with the Earth are called meteorites. When the meteorite hits Earth, the intense energy is transferred to heat, causing the meteorite to explode, evaporate, and leave behind a massive crater.

If the debris is totally burned before it hits the ground, it is a meteor. On the rare occasion that one is large enough to withstand the friction of the atmosphere and make impact with earth, it is called a meteorite. . When the meteorite hits Earth, all the energy from the motion of the meteorite is instantly turned into heat. This causes the meteorite to explode and evaporate causing a crater.