- It is an astronomical object.
- They are also commonly, though erroneously, referred to as Meteorites.
A meteoroid is a small body moving within a star system that would become a meteor if it entered a planetary atmosphere. Meteoroids are significantly smaller than planetoids, ranging in size from small grains to meter-wide objects. Objects smaller than this are classified as micrometeoroids or space dust.
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Typical Meteoroid Characteristics
- A star system typically contains multiple millions of meteoroids.
- Most meteoroids have very high velocities relative to other bodies within the system.
Meteoroid vs. Meteorite
- Meteoroid: a chunk of material, less than 1.0 meters in diameter, in orbit around a star. Objects greater than 1.0 meters in diameter are generally referred to as asteroids. Large objects, close to but less than 800 km in diameter – considered to be the lower limit of size 1 worlds – are generally referred to as planetoids.
- Meteor: a meteoroid passing through the atmosphere of a world. A meteor that ablates away or explodes in a planetary atmosphere may be referred to as a bolide.
- Meteorite: a meteoroid that has survived its atmospheric transit as a meteor and fallen to the surface of a world.
Most meteoroids are fragments from comets or asteroids, while others are collision impact debris ejected from planets. Most are composed of nickel-iron or stone, or are stony-iron in nature. Meteoroids have many different orbits, some clustering in streams of debris and often associated with a parent comet, while others are sporadic.
- Meteoroids may present a significant danger, particularly to spacecraft and orbital facilities, and to surface facilities on worlds with atmospheres rated as vacuum, trace or very thin. The thicker a world's atmosphere, the greater the chance that it will ablate away the meteoroid before it reaches the surface.
Planetary Entry & Impact
When a meteoroid enters a planetary atmosphere, aerodynamic heating of that object produces a streak of light, both from the glowing object and the trail of glowing particles that it leaves in its wake. This phenomenon is called a meteor. If it survives its passage through the atmosphere and impacts with the ground, it is then called a meteorite. Its impact may leave a significant crater.
Meteoroids and asteroids often contain value rare earth metals and other valuable resources. On worlds aware of there value, very competitive markets often develop to find and harvest such objects for their resource value. On many worlds, there may be an equally large value for such objects not as a resource object, but for their value to scientists, historians, and museums.