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Meteoroid Definition, Formation, and Effects Analysis.

Sep 5, 2022
  • Meteoroids are space objects that range from small dust grains to small asteroids. These are considered the “space rocks.”
  • Meteors are the fireballs or “shooting stars” that result from meteoroids travelling rapidly and igniting through the earth’s atmosphere (or another planet, such as Mars).
  • A meteorite is a real meteoroid that has gotten through the earth’s atmosphere and impacted its surface.

Meteoroid Definition

Meteoroid meaning: Meteoroids are chunks of stones or iron that orbit the sun’s surface like asteroids, planets, and comets. Meteoroids, particularly the small particles called micrometeoroids, are commonly present throughout the solar system, orbiting the sun between the rocky asteroid belt and the gas giants that create the outermost planets. Meteoroids can be detected even at the furthest points of the planetary system, in the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud.

Different meteoroids orbit the sun in various ways and at varying speeds. The fastest meteoroids move through the solar system at about 42 km/s (26 mi/s).


Meteoroids Formation

Numerous asteroid meteoroids are created from the collisions of asteroids that orbit the sun between Mars and Jupiter’s trajectories, a region known as the asteroid belt. Asteroids collide and leave behind crumbly pieces of debris called meteoroids. The power of the asteroid impact may force the asteroids themselves and meteoroid debris off of their normal orbits. The meteoroids may be on a collision trajectory with the moon or a planet.

Other meteoroids are the small particles or debris that comets leave behind as they move through space. The “dirty snowball” of the comet’s nucleus releases gas and dust as it gets closer to the sun. Hundreds of meteoroids and micrometeoroids could be present in the dusty tail. Meteoroids emitted by a comet typically orbit together in an arrangement called a meteoroid stream.


What is Space Weathering?

A small fraction of meteoroid rocks splinter off Mars and the Moon after celestial bodies—often meteoroids or other asteroids—impact their surfaces. Impacts from meteoroids are most likely the main cause of “space weathering.” The term “space weathering” refers to the processes that affect celestial bodies without an atmosphere, such as asteroids, Mars, many moons, and Mercury. These bodies are struck by meteoroids, which leave craters and contribute more meteoroids and space dust to the planetary system.

Meteoroid Composition

Most meteoroids are composed of heavier metals like iron and nickel and silicate minerals like silicon and oxygen. While stony meteoroids are smaller and more brittle, iron and nickel-iron meteoroids are larger and denser.


Analysing the Effect of Meteoroids

Since meteoroids are grains of dust floating around the sun, they are often as destructive as any other celestial body. The space agencies like NASA track meteoroid movement for two reasons—possible contact with the earth and probable impact with spacecraft.


The collision of even a micro-meteoroid can severely damage a spaceship’s windows, thermal protection systems, and pressurised containers. It might put astronauts at risk, cost millions of dollars, and destroy priceless scientific equipment.


Engineers must set up and equip spacecraft to prevent or resist hits from meteoroids. To achieve this, they have categorised three separate “meteoroid environments”: sporadic, lunar, and shower environments.

  • The meteor threat posed by comets or asteroids is a sporadic environment. To create stronger shielding measures, engineers must identify the section of the spacecraft most susceptible to occasional meteoroids.
  • The shower environment describes the threat posed by comet-related real meteoroid streams when they cross the earth’s orbit. These dust fields are connected to meteor showers on earth. The spacecraft’s most susceptible areas must be moved out of the way of the meteoroid streams by engineers.
  • The lunar environment describes the risk of meteoroids to personnel or equipment on the moon. Engineers have created space suits, aircraft, and shelters that can resist meteoroid hits even if there haven’t been any prolonged astronaut stays on the moon.


A meteoroid heats up as it travels through the earth’s atmosphere because of air resistance. Gases near the meteoroid light intensely due to the heat. The term “meteor,” sometimes known as a “shooting star,” refers to this dazzling meteoroid. Most meteoroids that enter the earth’s atmosphere burn up before they touch down. Meteorites are the fragments that do hit the surface of the earth.


Both meteors and meteorites can emerge as natural threats to the places they impact. Bolide massive meteors burst into the atmosphere with a force equivalent to 500 kilotons of TNT. Along with destroying crops and structures, these meteoroids on earth can generate shock waves that have the potential to result in burns and even fatalities. Even more disastrous outcomes could result from an actual impact, where a piece of space rock hits the planet. For instance, approximately 65 million years ago, the extinction of the dinosaurs and nearly all other forms of life on earth is thought to have been caused by a single meteor impact.

Quick Facts


Meteoroids Mar Missions: Meteoroids can destroy satellites in orbit and those travelling through space. On its way to Mars in 1967, the Mariner IV spacecraft collided with a meteoroid stream. Despite some of Mariner IV’s thermal insulation being damaged by the meteoroids, the mission was successful. 

In 1993, a real meteoroid connected to the Perseid meteor shower struck the European communications satellite Olympus. The mechanism (control moment gyroscope) that regulated the spacecraft’s momentum was destroyed when the Perseid struck the electronics compartment of Olympus. The mission had to be abandoned since the spacecraft’s fuel had run out by then, but the engineers managed to stabilise it.

Difference Between Asteroids and Meteoroids


Asteroids can be termed as the minor planets present inside the inner solar system. The asteroid belt contains millions of asteroids. The asteroid belt, situated in the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, has more than 750,000 asteroids. Asteroids can span hundreds of kilometres in width. Most asteroids are composed of stones. However, the most recent studies show that certain asteroids include iron and nickel.


Despite the absence of an atmosphere, asteroids have a strong gravitational attraction due to their massive size. Experts claim that some asteroids have one or two accompanying moons and that asteroids of similar sizes orbit one another.


An asteroid meteoroid, on either side, is a tiny rock made of metal that has fallen from the atmosphere. They are substantially smaller than asteroids, with dimensions ranging from a millimetre to a metre broad. When meteoroids penetrate the earth’s atmosphere, they eventually turn to vapour and may never reach the surface. They burn as they descend, leaving a faint trace. Although meteoroids are safe, larger meteors often erupt in the atmosphere, producing shock waves, and leading to complications.

Basically, the location of an object determines whether it is an asteroid or a meteoroid. It is referred to as a meteor entering the earth’s atmosphere and a meteorite when it strikes the earth. Rocks and minerals make up everything.

Interesting Facts:

  • Meteoroids are small pieces of rock or metal that travel across space.
  • Asteroids are substantially larger than these. The smallest meteoroids are hardly larger than a sand grain, while the largest are boulders about one metre in diameter.
  • Simple bits of asteroids, comets, or even parts of the Moon or Mars that have been scraped off during interactions or impacts are known as meteoroids. They primarily originate from the asteroid belt and are fragments of asteroids. Some of them are comet tail rocks.
  • These rocks produce meteor showers when the comet’s tail passes through the earth’s orbit.


Meteoroid definition: “Meteoroid” is typically used to describe objects smaller than house size or tens of metres across. Asteroids and comet fragments are thought to make up the majority of meteoroids, which belong to the class of planetary system objects known as tiny bodies. Other celestial bodies that have produced meteoroids include the Vesta, Moon, Mars, and even Mercury. Micrometeoroids, the tiniest meteoroids, measuring less than a few hundred nanometers, are also called interplanetary dust particles.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a Meteor Shower?

Ans. Each day, roughly 48.5 tonnes (44 tonnes, or 44,000 kilogrammes) of meteoritic debris are thought to fall to earth. A dazzling trail popularly known as “shooting stars” is left behind as nearly all of the material is destroyed in the earth’s atmosphere. On any given night, one can typically observe several meteors each hour. Sometimes there is a sharp increase in the number; these occurrences are known as meteor showers.

2. Define Meteoroid

Ans. Meteor and meteoroid are two terms for the same thing: a light streak in the sky caused by a relatively small rocky or metallic particle from space that reaches the earth’s atmosphere and becomes incandescent. In a popular context, rather than simply those that penetrate the earth’s atmosphere, the term “meteoroid” refers to any small rock in the sun’s orbit that has the same characteristics as those that give rise to meteors.

3. How does a meteoroid reach the earth’s atmosphere?

Ans. A meteoroid moves much faster than a bullet from a gun barrel as it hits the earth’s atmosphere, moving at a minimum of more than 11 kilometres per second (25,000 miles per hour). The violent impact of the meteoroid with atmospheric particles and atoms creates frictional heating, which warms the air surrounding it and melts and evaporates the meteoroid’s surface. As a result, the meteor-related light phenomenon is produced. “shooting stars” and “falling stars” are frequently used to describe meteors. 

When a meteorite strikes the earth, most of them burns up in the high atmosphere. A meteoroid is referred to as a meteorite if it survives its ferocious descent through the atmosphere and touches down on the planet’s surface.



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