When a Meteor Hits Earth: What Is It Called and What Are the Effects?

When a meteor hits earth, what is it called? It’s a question that’s been on people’s minds for centuries. Meteorologists, astronomers, and enthusiasts alike have been fascinated with meteor impacts for as long as we can remember. The fact is that meteors have been crashing into our planet since the beginning of time, and yet, we still have so much to learn about them.

The mere thought of a meteor hitting earth can be terrifying, especially when we consider the damage it can cause. The good news is that most meteors are small enough to burn up in the earth’s atmosphere before ever reaching the ground. But what about the ones that don’t? The ones that make it through the atmosphere and make impact? These are what we call meteorites.

Meteorites have been found all over our planet, and scientists continue to study them to learn more about our solar system’s origins. These meteorites can provide vital information about the formation of planets, the origins of life on earth, and the composition of other planetary bodies in our solar system. So, when a meteor hits earth, what is it called? A meteorite. And it’s not just an ordinary rock – it’s a window into the mysteries of our universe.

Types of Meteors

A meteor is a space rock that falls into the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up as it enters. Meteors are classified into three types: iron, stony, and stony iron.

  • Iron: Iron meteors are composed mostly of iron and nickel. They are the most valuable of the three types and can be used for scientific research.
  • Stony: Stony meteors are the most common and are made of silicate minerals and metals. They are typically smaller than the other two types.
  • Stony Iron: Stony-iron meteors are a combination of the other two types and are the rarest.

The Effects of a Meteor Strike

A meteor strike can have devastating results depending on the size and location of the impact. When a large enough meteor collides with the Earth, it can cause mass extinctions and change the climate of the planet.

The most famous example of this is the Chicxulub asteroid that struck the Yucatan Peninsula around 65 million years ago, which many scientists believe caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. A smaller meteor can still create an impact crater and cause local damage as well as generate a tsunami if it lands in the ocean.

Meteor Showers

Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes through a trail of debris left by a comet, causing many meteors to enter the atmosphere at once. Some of the most well-known meteor showers include the Perseids, Leonids, and Geminids.

Meteorite Composition by Type and Group

Type/Group Iron Stony Stony-Iron

The composition of a meteorite depends on its type and group. The table above shows the most common types of meteorites and their compositions.

The Impact of Meteors on Earth’s Atmosphere

When a meteor enters Earth’s atmosphere, it experiences frictions with the air molecules and starts to heat up. This creates a brilliant streak across the sky known as a shooting star. However, if the meteor doesn’t burn up completely, it can collide with Earth’s surface, causing significant damage and sometimes leading to mass extinction events.

  • Most meteors burn up before reaching the ground, but those that make it through can cause an impact crater.
  • The size and speed of a meteor determine the extent of the damage it can cause.
  • The Chicxulub impact, believed to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, is estimated to have been 10km in diameter.

The impact of meteors on Earth’s atmosphere goes beyond just creating a dramatic light show and causing physical damage. Meteors can also affect our climate and the evolution of life on our planet.

When a large meteor collides with Earth, it sends massive amounts of debris into the atmosphere, blocking out sunlight and causing a sudden drop in temperature. This can lead to an extinction event as plants and animals struggle to survive in the changed conditions.

Meteor Impact Effects on Earth
Chicxulub impact Mass extinction of dinosaurs and 75% of all species
Tunguska event Equivalent to a 10-15 megaton nuclear explosion
Barringer Crater Impact crater in Arizona, USA

In conclusion, the impact of meteors on Earth’s atmosphere can range from creating a beautiful light show to wiping out entire species. While the likelihood of a catastrophic event is low, the consequences are severe, and we must be prepared to minimize the damage in case of a future impact.

The Difference Between Meteors, Asteroids, and Comets

As space enthusiasts, we often hear about objects that can potentially collide with our planet, such as meteors, asteroids, and comets. It’s important to understand their differences, so let’s explore them in detail.

  • Meteors: A meteor is a space rock or debris that is traveling through space. When it enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it burns up and forms a streak of light in the sky. It is commonly known as a shooting star or falling star.
  • Asteroids: An asteroid is a rocky or metallic object that orbits the sun. They range in size from tiny fragments to massive ones such as Vesta, which measures around 326 miles (525 kilometers) in diameter. They are often considered potential hazards to Earth if they are on a collision course with our planet.
  • Comets: A comet is a mixture of water, ice, gas, and dust that orbits the sun. Comets originate from the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud, both located in the outer solar system, and they have distinct tails due to their volatile materials evaporating when they approach the sun.

While all of these space objects can cause damage if they collide with Earth, the level of damage they cause depends on their size, composition, and speed.

It’s also worth noting that the terms meteoroid, meteor, and meteorite are often used interchangeably, but they refer to different things. A meteoroid is a small particle that travels through space, a meteor is the visible trail of light produced by the meteoroid as it burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere, and a meteorite is a meteoroid that survives its passage through the atmosphere and lands on Earth’s surface.

Overall, understanding the differences between these space objects can help us appreciate the marvels of our universe and keep us informed about potential hazards that may affect our planet.

If you’re curious about the latest news and discoveries in astronomy, you may want to check out space blogs and other resources like Universe Today, NASA, and Sky & Telescope.

Object Description
Meteor A space rock or debris that enters Earth’s atmosphere, causing a visible streak of light in the sky.
Asteroid A rocky or metallic object that orbits the sun and can potentially collide with Earth.
Comet A mixture of ice, gas, dust, and rock that originates from the outer solar system and develops a visible tail when it approaches the sun.

Understanding the different space objects and their characteristics helps us appreciate the vastness and complexity of our universe. Whether you’re an astronomy enthusiast or just curious about the mysteries of space, there’s always something new to discover.

Famous meteor impact events in history

Throughout history, meteor impacts have fascinated and terrified people. From the fiery explosion to the resulting craters, meteor impacts have left a huge impact on the Earth and its inhabitants. Here are some of the most famous meteor impact events in history.

  • The Tunguska Event: This event occurred on June 30, 1908, in a remote area of Siberia, Russia. The explosion caused by the meteor was estimated to be around 10-15 megatons of TNT. The result was a massive blast that flattened trees in an area about the size of Tokyo.
  • The Chicxulub Impact: Approximately 66 million years ago, a meteor estimated to be about 10 km in diameter crashed into what is now the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The impact caused a massive extinction event which wiped out around 75% of all species, including the dinosaurs.
  • The Barringer Crater: Approximately 50,000 years ago, a meteor about 30-50 meters wide crashed into what is now Arizona. The result was a crater that is 1.2 km wide and 170 meters deep, and is now known as the Barringer Crater.

Impact Craters on Earth

Scientists have identified over 190 confirmed impact craters on Earth, with many more still being discovered. Below are some notable craters:

Crater Name Location Diameter (km)
Barringer Crater Arizona, United States 1.2
Manicouagan Crater Quebec, Canada 100
Vredefort Dome Free State, South Africa 300

The Importance of Studying Meteor Impacts

While the idea of a meteor impact may seem like something out of a Hollywood movie, the reality is that it is a genuine threat to our planet. By studying past impact events, we can better understand the potential impact of future events and take steps to protect ourselves. Additionally, studying meteor impacts can provide insight into the formation of our solar system and the evolution of life on Earth.

Overall, while the possibility of a meteor impact may be frightening, it is important to recognize its potential impact and take the steps necessary to better understand and prepare for it.

The effects of a meteor impact on the environment

When a meteor hits earth, it can cause devastating effects on the environment that can last for years. Here are some of the effects:

  • Crater formation: Depending on the size of the meteor, it can create a crater that can be a few meters to over 100 kilometers wide. This can cause the destruction of a large area of land and the displacement of animals and other organisms living in the area.
  • Wildfires: When a meteor hits the ground, it can cause intense heat that can ignite wildfires. This can be especially dangerous in areas where there is a lot of dry vegetation, as it can spread quickly and be hard to control.
  • Tsunamis: If the meteor hits the ocean, it can cause a tsunami that can travel thousands of miles and cause destruction along the way. This can cause widespread damage to coastal areas and disrupt marine ecosystems.

In addition to these immediate effects, a meteor impact can also have long-term effects on the environment. These can include:

  • Climate change: A large meteor impact can eject massive amounts of dust and debris into the atmosphere, causing a temporary cooling effect on the planet. This can disrupt weather patterns and lead to widespread crop failures and other environmental issues.
  • Extinction events: Large meteor impacts have been linked to several mass extinction events throughout history, such as the extinction of the dinosaurs. These events can have a lasting impact on the biodiversity of the planet and can take millions of years to recover from.
  • Geological changes: Depending on the location of the impact, a meteor can cause geological changes that can last for millions of years. For example, the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, which was created by a meteor impact, is thought to have contributed to the formation of the Gulf of Mexico.


A meteor impact is a rare but devastating event that can have long-lasting effects on the environment. From crater formation to climate change and extinction events, the impact of a meteor can cause widespread destruction and disruption to ecosystems and human civilizations. While we cannot prevent meteor impacts, we can work to understand their effects and develop strategies to minimize their impact on the environment.

Meteor impact effects on the environment Immediate Effects Long-Term Effects
Crater formation X
Wildfires X
Tsunamis X
Climate change X
Extinction events X
Geological changes X

Sources: NASA, Smithsonian Magazine

The role of meteors in the origin of life on Earth

Metaphorically, a meteor strike seems like the ultimate reset button, wiping out everything in its path and leaving behind a blank slate. But in reality, meteor impacts on Earth are incredibly important for our existence. Here’s why:

  • Bringer of Life – Scientists believe that the impact of a meteor on Earth was actually responsible for the creation of life. The theory is that the elements needed for life on Earth, such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, were brought here by meteors billions of years ago. These elements combined with the perfect conditions on Earth, such as water and heat, to create the first living organisms.
  • Regulator of Climate – Meteors also play a role in regulating the climate of our planet. When a meteor strikes, it can release a significant amount of energy, which can have a cooling effect on the Earth’s atmosphere. This cooling effect can counteract the warming caused by other factors such as greenhouse gases.
  • Catalyst for Evolution – Meteor impacts can also be a catalyst for evolution. In the wake of a major meteor strike, species that are able to adapt to the new conditions will thrive, while those that cannot will die out. This is thought to have happened during the extinction of the dinosaurs, which paved the way for the rise of mammals.

Of course, not all meteor impacts are beneficial. Large-scale strikes can have disastrous effects on Earth’s ecosystems and even on human populations. But overall, it’s clear that meteors have played an important role in the history of our planet and in the evolution of life as we know it.

The Impact of Meteor Strikes on Earth

Meteor impact craters can be found all over the Earth’s surface, many of which have been formed during the planet’s long history. Here are some of the impacts that have had the most significant impact on Earth:

  • Chicxulub Crater – This is one of the most famous meteor craters on Earth and is believed to be responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. The impact occurred around 66 million years ago and created a crater that is 93 miles wide.
  • Barringer Crater – Located in Arizona, this is one of the best-preserved meteor impact craters on Earth. It was created around 50,000 years ago when a meteorite hit the Earth’s surface, leaving a crater that is 3,900 feet wide.
  • Tunguska Event – This meteor strike occurred in 1908 in Siberia and caused a massive explosion that flattened trees for miles around. Although there were no known human casualties, the impact was so powerful that it was felt as far away as the UK.

The Future of Meteor Impacts on Earth

While meteor strikes are certainly not something that we can control, scientists are working to better understand them and to anticipate their impact on Earth. This includes studying the composition and trajectory of asteroids and developing methods for detecting and deflecting potentially dangerous objects.

Type of Impact Frequency Effects
Minor Several per year No significant effects on Earth
Major A few per century Can cause significant damage to Earth’s ecosystems and human populations
Catastrophic One every few million years Can have a global impact and cause mass extinction events

By studying meteor impacts on Earth and developing strategies for dealing with them, we can better prepare for the inevitable and ensure the safety and survival of our planet and its inhabitants.

How scientists study meteors and their impact on the planet

Studying meteors and their impact on Earth is an important area of research for scientists. The information they gather can help us better understand the origins of our solar system, as well as how to prepare for potential future impacts. Here are some of the ways scientists study meteors:

  • Observation: One of the most basic ways scientists study meteors is by observing them. This involves looking at the night sky and recording any sightings of shooting stars or other celestial objects that may be passing through our atmosphere.
  • Meteorite recovery: When a meteor makes it all the way to the Earth’s surface, it is no longer considered a meteor but a meteorite. Scientists can study these objects in detail by analyzing their chemical composition and structure.
  • Impact simulations: Scientists can create simulations of what would happen if a meteor were to hit Earth. These simulations involve modeling the meteor’s trajectory, size, and impact location, and predicting the effects it would have on the planet.

But what about the impact of meteors on our planet? Here’s what scientists know so far:

When a meteor impacts the Earth, it can have a variety of effects depending on its size and location. Some possible effects include:

  • Crater formation: Large meteors can create craters in the Earth’s surface, some of which can be seen from space.
  • Environmental impacts: Meteors can create environmental changes such as wildfires, tsunamis, and changes in temperature and climate.
  • Biodiversity implications: Meteors can have significant impacts on biodiversity by altering ecosystems and leading to the extinction of certain species.

To better understand the effects of meteors on our planet, scientists use a variety of techniques, including:

  • Geological sampling: Studying rock samples from meteor craters can provide information about the impact event and its effects on the surrounding environment.
  • Computer modeling: Computer models can be used to simulate the effects of meteor impacts and predict the potential consequences.
  • Field observations: Scientists can visit sites where meteor impacts have occurred to observe the crater, collect samples, and study the surrounding geology.

Overall, studying meteors and their impacts on Earth is a fascinating and important area of research that can help us better understand our planet and prepare for future events.

Impact event Location Crater size Other effects
Chicxulub impact Mexico ~180 km Mass extinction event
Tunguska event Siberia No crater Forest destruction, seismic waves, bright flash
Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 Jupiter Various sizes and impacts Fireballs visible from Earth, changes to Jupiter’s atmosphere

The above table shows some examples of notable impact events and their effects. The Chicxulub impact, for example, is thought to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. The Tunguska event, while not creating a crater, still caused significant destruction and is estimated to have released the energy of around 10-15 megatons of TNT. The impacts of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 on Jupiter were visible from Earth and caused significant changes to the planet’s atmosphere.

FAQs: When a Meteor Hits Earth, What Is It Called?

Q: When a meteor hits Earth, what is it called?
A: It’s called a meteorite.

Q: What is a meteorite?
A: A meteorite is a solid piece of debris that comes from a meteoroid or asteroid. It survives its passage through Earth’s atmosphere and lands on the Earth’s surface.

Q: Is every shooting star a meteorite?
A: No, shooting stars are not meteorites. Shooting stars are the bright streaks that are seen in the sky when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up.

Q: How big can meteorites be?
A: Meteorites can range in size from small pebbles to large boulders.

Q: Can a meteorite cause damage when it hits the Earth?
A: Yes, depending on the size and composition, a meteorite can cause varying levels of damage when it hits the Earth.

Q: Have any significant meteorite impacts occurred in history?
A: Yes – some significant meteorite impacts in history include the Tunguska event in 1908 and the Chicxulub impact that caused the extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Q: Where can I see meteorites?
A: You can see meteorites in museums or collections that display them. You can also purchase them from specialty stores, but be sure to buy from a reputable source.

Closing thoughts on Meteorites

We hope these FAQs have answered some of your questions about meteorites. Remember, when a meteor hits Earth, it’s called a meteorite, and they can vary in size and cause damage. While they may not be commonly seen, they play an important role in providing insight into the early history of our solar system. Thanks for reading and come back for more interesting articles later!