It's a meteorite, damn it!

But did they get value for their money?

My, it’s my day for being the astronomy pedant (I just did this on another thread too).

Meteoroid is when it’s out in space. A small chunk of comet or asteroid can be called a meteoroid, I suppose. There’s no hard-and-fast size limit to these things (which is in a snese why Pluto is such an object of argument right now).

Meteor is the glowing phenomenon of the meteoroid as it heats the air in front of it (and not by friction; it’s ram pressure that heats the air).

Meteorite is when it hits the ground. If it hits, say, an airplane and stops, I think it would still be called a meteorite, but let’s hope we don’t get to test that.

The “meteor” definition was pointed out to me by an astronomer friend who (shameless plug here) is the technical editor for my book (“Bad Astronomy” due out at booksellers near you next March!) I figured the actual rock was called “meteor” in the air, but he set me straight.

Hey, when was the last time the weather guy was right about anything?

Found a clip, I’m assuming it came from this morning’s rocket thingy, but it really doesn’t say for sure: Yahoo News
Why is it always on the East Coast? We never get anything cool like this in the Midwest.

Well, there’s famous footage of a school-bus-sized chunk o’universe coming in over a football game. Very dramatic, with flaming pieces coming off and everything. One of my favorites. Check it out here:

Very cool. Thanks for the link, BA.

Thanks for those, Bos and BA. I’ll take a peek at them when I’m out from the world’s thickest firewall (I’m at work now).

And Bad, Your technical advisor has some work to do to get that description of “meteor” accepted generally. Bartleby and a couple of other sites that I looked at today went out of their way to say that “meteor” describes both the glow and the airborne rock.

Oh, and I forgot. Boscibo, there was apparently a pretty good bolide in the west on Aug. 17 or thereabouts – IIRC folks saw it from Arizona up through the Dakotas – I think there are some folks searching Colorado trying to find the meteorite that they think must have hit. People described it as falling almost straight down as opposed to streaking across the sky.

The ironic thing here is that he probably calls himself a meteorologist :smiley: