Ever wondered what the difference is between meteorites, meteors and meteoroids? In this 12-minute ode to her astrophysicist sister, “Emily”, Joanna Newsom attempts to explain:
“The meteorite is a source of the light / And the meteor’s just what we see / And the meteoroid is a stone that’s devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee.”
The only problem is that Joanna’s got meteorites and meteoroids mixed up. Meteoroids are small chunks of rock and debris in the Solar System. In other words, they’re the “source of the light” because they glow if they fall through a planet’s atmosphere. If a meteoroid reaches the Earth’s surface and survives impact, it becomes known as a meteorite – a dull stone, “devoid of fire”. A meteor is just the visible path of a meteoroid as it passes through a planet’s atmosphere (a shooting star), so she got that one right.
But does anyone really care about this little mix-up? Probably not. And in any case, a small amount of artistic license is quickly forgiven when the song’s as beautiful as this one.