ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — On Monday, July 17, late into the night, a few people around Rochester reported seeing a bright flash of light and loud boom.

With no storms in the area, it left many scratching their heads. It turns out it was likely a meteoroid that entered Earth’s atmosphere and became a meteor as it burnt up upon entry.

Pretty scary, right? Not really. According to NASA, Earth is struck by over 100 tons of space debris and dust every day. Much of these would be considered Meteoroids, which are classified as space debris less than 1 meter or 3.3 feet in diameter.

Not all of them will be visible as meteors, or the light emitted from a falling meteoroid. Interestingly, a falling meteoroid isn’t considered to be a fireball until it is brighter than the planet Venus, our celestial neighbor, and second closest planet to the sun.

Most of the meteoroids that enter Earth’s atmosphere burn up completely as they become meteors. But a few do manage to make it to the surface and when they finally become meteorites through it is fairly rare.

For clarity, and so you can sound smart at the water cooler these are the three important definitions to know when talking about these types of events:

  • Meteoroid
    • Debris from a comet or asteroid, about 1 meter or 3.3 feet or less in size located in space
  • Meteor
    • The light/heat generated by the meteoroid entering Earth’s atmosphere
  • Meteorite
    • A meteoroid that survived the trip through Earth’s atmosphere and landed on the surface