Meteor or meteorite? So which is it?

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3TV/CBS 5) -

On Tuesday night many people in Phoenix, the state and the desert southwest saw a large flash of light that lit up the night sky.

Experts say it was a meteor!

[READ MORE: Bright flash seen over Phoenix-area night sky]

[MOBILE/APP USERS: Click/tap here to see photo of the shooting start over Phoenix]

But did you know there are several different names to distinguish exactly what we are talking about when a piece of space debris enters our earth's atmosphere?

Here is your crash course on meteor 101!

Meteor: This is the flash of light you see as a piece of space debris is entering the atmosphere. The flash is the space rock burning up as it passes through the earth's transparent force field.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Weather blog

Meteoroid: This is the actual rock made of nickel, iron, and silicates. This is the piece floating around the atmosphere before it makes its way toward Earth. They can range from the diameter of a human hair to a meter wide. Anything bigger than one meter is considered an asteroid.

[RELATED: Meteoroid strikes ASU lunar camera]

Meteorite: If any piece of space debris is lucky enough to survive its fiery trip through the earth's atmosphere, it's called a meteorite. Most meteorites are very small and just produce a light show, but some can be very large. That's what made the giant crater outside of Flagstaff known as Meteor Crater! That meteorite was 30-50 meters wide! It ended up making a crater a mile wide and 500+ feet deep. If that were to happen today in Phoenix it would bring massive destruction and many many deaths. Yikes!

[MOBILE/APP USERS: Click/tap here to see photo of the Meteor Crater]

If you ever happen to find a meteorite, hang onto it! They can be worth a lot of money. A common meteorite weighing one pound can easily fetch hundreds of dollars.

MOBILE: Click/tap here for infographic

[MOBILE/APP USERS: Click/tap here to see photo of a meteorite] ?

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Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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