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Glossary Of Meteorite Terms & Definitions

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S
T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z

Welcome to the Meteorites Australia "Glossary Of Meteorite Terms & Definitions".
Italicised words are included in the list of Terms & Definitions.


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  • Ablation - is the stripping of melted material from the surface of a meteor as it moves through the Earth's atmosphere.

  • Achondrite - (a-kon-drites) meteorites which do not contain chondrules. Many of these specimens originate from larger 'parent bodies' such as the Moon, Mars or an asteroid. Some Achondrites may also be melted or transformed Chondrites.

  • Asteroid - small planet like bodies that orbit the sun lying mostly in the region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Their diameters range from a few metres to hundreds of kilometres.

  • Ataxite - iron meteorites which contain more than 16% Nickel. They do not display a Widmanstatten Pattern.


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  • Basalt - are volcanic rocks primarily composed of the minerals olivine, pyroxene and feldspar.

  • Bolide - a very large meteor which is sometimes accompanied by loud sonic booms.

  • Breccia - Rock composed of sharp-angled fragments made up of the same material and embedded in a fine-grained matrix.


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  • Carbonaceous Chondrites - meteorites which are rich in Carbon. They are thought to represent the earliest formed material in our Solar System or even have cometary origin.

  • Chondrites - (kon-drites) meteorites which contain Chondrules. Chondrites are primitive aggregates of early Solar System materials.

  • Chondrules - are small spherical rocks usually less than 1mm in diameter which formed from molten or partly molten droplets while floating around in space. Chondrites are composed primarily of these materials. (see above) Click Here for excellent examples of chondrules.

  • Class / Classification - is a meteorites scientific designation into a particular type of specimen. (E.g. L6, EH5, Howardite, CO3.6, IIAB, etc)

  • Comet - a body which orbits the sun and is primarily composed of frozen water, ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide and many pieces of rock and dust. Their distinct tail occurs when they approach the sun from their suspected origin in the outer edges of our Solar System.

  • Crater - formed from the collision of a large natural body from space when it impacts a large body's (eg. planets, moons, asteroids) surface at high velocity.


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  • No terms yet - please contact if there is one you would like to see added.


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  • Electrophonic Sounds - often associated with the fall of meteorites comes unusual sounds which can be like whistling, hissing, whizzing etc. (See here for more information.)

  • Enstatite - the pyroxene silicate highest in magnesium content and a particular Classification of meteorite.


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  • Fall - a meteorite which was witnessed to fall to Earth's surface.

  • Falling Star - see Meteor.

  • Feldspar - a mineral group of silicate minerals commonly containing calcium, sodium, potassium and aluminium.

  • Find - a meteorite which has been found and has no record of being witnessed to fall to Earth's surface.

  • Fireball - a very large and bright meteor which can also often leave a smoke trail.

  • Fusion Crust - in the last couple of seconds of luminous flight, the molten surface of a meteor solidifies to form a thin, usually black 'fusion crust'.


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  • Genomict - A mixing of different petrologic stages of same composition (Eg. L3.8 and L6)


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  • H-Chondrite - ordinary chondrite with 'High Iron'. (About 12% - 21% Metallic Iron)

  • Howardite - an Achondrite made of fragments of other types, usually Eucrite, Diogenite, Mesosiderite and chondrite. Howardites are broken meteoritic soils from the surface of an asteroid.


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  • Impact Melt - these meteorites have formed from material that was liquefied or partially liquefied from the extreme pressure and heat generated by a large meteorite or asteroid impact in space.

  • Igneous Rock - rock produced directly or indirectly from the solidification of molten magma (lava).

  • Inclusion - a body of material enclosed by a different material.

  • Individual - a whole unbroken or uncut meteorite specimen.

  • Interstellar Dust - small particles which originate outside of our Solar System.

  • Iron Meteorite (Irons) - meteorites composed mainly of iron and nickel.

  • Iron Shale - see Shale.


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  • No terms yet - please contact if there is one you would like to see added.


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  • Kamacite - is an iron-nickel mineral low in nickel content. (Up to about 7.5%)


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  • L-Chondrite - ordinary chondrite with 'Low Iron'. (About 5% - 10% Metallic Iron)

  • LL-Chondrite - ordinary chondrite with 'Low total Iron, Low Metallic Iron.
    (About 2% - 3% Metallic Iron)


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  • Matrix - the embedding medium between chondrules, metallic iron grains etc.

  • Metachondrite - term used to describe a Metamorphosed Chondrite. They are texturally evolved rocks from Chondritic precursors and also known as Primitive Achondrites.

  • Metallic Iron - is iron in its metallic form. Irons and Stony/Iron Meteorites are primarily made up of metallic iron in the form of two main minerals. (See Kamacite & Taenite)

  • Meteoroid - is a small piece of dust, rock, ice or metal moving through space. They range in size from a speck of dust but are smaller than an asteroid.

  • Meteor - is a meteoroid that has entered the Earths atmosphere and burns brightly leaving a flaming tail and sometimes smoke. They are more commonly called 'Shooting Stars' or 'Falling Stars'. Most meteors will burn up completely in the atmosphere.

  • Meteorite - is a meteor that has survived entry through the atmosphere and reached the Earths surface.

  • Meteoritics - the study and/or science of meteorites and associated phenomena.

  • Mesosiderite - meteorites usually composed relatively evenly of iron/nickel and stony material.

  • Minerals - are naturally occurring substances which have a definite chemical composition and a characteristic crystalline structure, colour, and hardness.

  • Monomict - A mixing of the same textures and compositions. (Eg. L6 with L6)


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  • No terms yet - please contact if there is one you would like to see added.


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  • Octahedrite - Iron meteorite displaying a Widmanstatten Pattern.

  • Olivine - is a group of mainly iron and magnesium bearing silicate minerals. See also Silicates.

  • Ordinary Chondrite - these are the most common meteorites found. This term encompasses meteorites belonging to the H-Chondrite, L-Chondrite or LL-Chondrite group.

  • Oriented (meteorite) - a meteorite often displaying a conical shape which has resulted from very stable flight through Earth's atmosphere and thus undergone even ablation. (See here for more detail)


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  • Pallasite - Stony/Iron meteorites usually composed of olivine crystals set in a matrix of metallic iron.

  • Parent Body - a larger body from which a meteorite is thought to originate. (See here for more detail)

  • Plessite - is not a mineral as such but rather a fine grained mixture of Kamacite and Taenite.

  • Polymict - A mixing of different textures but the same compositions (Eg. L5 light 
    with L6 dark)

  • Primitive Achondrite - a meteorite whose bulk composition is approximately chondritic, but has been texturally modified by partial melting or metamorphic recrystallisation. - NAU

  • Pyroxene - a group of rock forming silicates commonly containing iron, magnesium, calcium, aluminium and sodium.


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  • No terms yet - please contact if there is one you would like to see added.


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  • Regmaglypts - are thumbprint-like depressions on a meteorite caused by the uneven flow of air during passage through the atmosphere and the consequent surface melting and ablation.

  • Regolith - Mixing of different compositions and/or petrologic stages with a
    fine matrix at the surface of an asteroid, or moon, etc. Measurement of solar
    radiation is involved to show surface exposure implying multiple events at
    surface. (Eg. H3-6)


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  • Shale - the product of complete alteration of iron meteorites to iron oxides by weathering on Earth.

  • Shooting Star - see Meteor.

  • Silicates / Silicate Minerals - Group containing a large number of common rock forming minerals, that consist of repetitive SiO4 groupings combined with one or more metals and sometimes hydrogen.

  • SNC - acronym term used for Mars meteorites. (S-Shergottite, N-Nahklite,

  • Stony / Stones (meteorites) - meteorites composed predominantly of silicate minerals.

  • Stony/Iron (meteorites) - meteorites composed of iron-nickel metal (metallic iron) and silicate minerals in roughly equal proportions.

  • Strewn field - the usually elliptical area over which fragments from a shower of meteorites are distributed on the ground.


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  • Taenite - is an iron-nickel mineral high in nickel content. (More than 25%)

  • Tektite - naturally occurring and once airborne glass ejected by explosive meteorite impact.

  • Thumbprints - see Regmaglypts.

  • Troilite - is Iron Sulphide (FeS). Commonly occurring metallic mineral in most meteorites which is a dull yellow or brass-like colour.


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  • Unclassified - the term given to meteorites which have not been officially examined, classified and named.

  • Ungrouped - meteorites which do not fit into any existing classification. Once five different specimens have been found, a new classification may be developed.


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  • No terms yet - please contact if there is one you would like to see added.


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  • Widmanstätten Pattern - the lined pattern which is revealed when the surface of an iron or stony/iron meteorite is etched with acid. Taenite is a little more resistant to the acid thus allowing it stand out more than the Kamacite.


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  • Xenolith - clasts or inclusions which are completely unrelated to the host matrix / material.


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  • No terms yet - please contact if there is one you would like to see added.


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  • No terms yet - please contact if there is one you would like to see added.