Meteorite, Asteroid, Russia and the Big Difference

Categories: ASC, Blog

A meteor explodes through the atmosphere and hits the ground, injuring hundreds in Russia. An asteroid, half the size of a football field will come very close to the Earth today as it passes on its orbit.

As I listened to these stories this morning, besides the general feeling of doom (don’t worry, NASA promises the asteroid is a safe distance away), I found myself wondering what was the difference between a meteor, asteroid and comet.

So for those of you who didn’t learn this (like me) or forgot it at some point, here is the breakdown courtesy of Science Kids:

Comet
A comet is a relatively small solar system body that orbits the Sun. When close enough to the Sun they display a visible coma (a fuzzy outline or atmosphere due to solar radiation) and sometimes a tail.
Asteroid
Asteroids are small solar system bodies that orbit the Sun. Made of rock and metal, they can also contain organic compounds. Asteroids are similar to comets but do not have a visible coma (fuzzy outline and tail) like comets do.
Meteoroid
A meteoroid is a small rock or particle of debris in our solar system. They range in size from dust to around 10 metres in diameter (larger objects are usually referred to as asteroids).
Meteor
A meteoroid that burns up as it passes through the Earth’s atmosphere is known as a meteor. If you’ve ever looked up at the sky at night and seen a streak of light or ‘shooting star’ what you are actually seeing is a meteor.
Meteorite
A meteoroid that survives falling through the Earth’s atmosphere and colliding with the Earth’s surface is known as a meteorite.

So now that you can impress your co-workers, friends and families with your knowledge of near Earth objects, check out this amazing video from Russia’s early morning meteorite strike (And more here).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1W90i4nZZAQ&w=420&h=315]

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