Meteorite Terminology

By · March 5, 2010 · Filed in Meteorite Terminology

Ok, now that we know what a meteorite is and what it is basically made of lets get some terminology down. So here are some terms and definitions that you will need to know.


  • Meteoroid – a space rock that has the potential to cross Earths path.
  • Meteor – a meteoroid as it passes through the Earths atmosphere.”Shooting Star”
  • Meteorite – a meteor that does not burn up in the atmosphere and falls to the Earth.
  • Meteorwrong – a terrestrial rock or man made junk that you mistake for a meteorite.
  •  Fusion Crust –  thin glassy coating on the outside of a meteorite caused by the atmosphere melting it.
  • Desert Varnish – a dark coating on exposed rocks due to the sun and elements over a long period of time.(sometimes mistaken for fusion crust)
  • Ablation – the process of  the outside meterial of a meteorite melting away as it travels through the Earths atmosphere.
  • Oriented Stone – a meteorite that did not tumble as it traveled through the atmosphere.
  • Regmaglypts or Thumb Print – are thumbprint like impressions on the outside of a meteorite caused by ablation
  • Hammer Stone – a meteorite that hits a man made object. Very rare.
  • Pallasites – are a type of stony-iron meteorite with beautiful olivine crystals.
  • Olivine Crystals – found in some stony-iron meteorites is usually named for its typically olive-green color.
  • Peridot – cut gem quality olivine crystals.
  • Terrestrial Rock – a rock that did not come from outer space and was formed here on earth.
  • Hemanite and Magnetite– magnetic terrestrial rocks commonly mistaken for meteorites.(meteorwrongs)
  • Strewnfield – when a large meteoroid enters the atmosphere it often fragments into many pieces before touching the ground due to thermal shock. This mid-air explosion causes the dispersion of the material over a large oval-shaped area.
  • Bolide – a very large meteor which is sometimes accompanied by loud sonic booms.
  • Fall – a meteorite which was witnessed to fall to Earth’s surface.
  • Find – a meteorite which has been found and has no record of being witnessed to fall to Earth’s surface.
  • Matrix – the embedding medium between chondrules, metallic iron grains etc.

Here’s to the perfect hunt!