Common misconceptions and clarifications about the universe
Meteor..what? The difference between comet, asteroid, meteoroid, meteor and a meteorite
When people hear about meteors, meteorites and all those things it can get really confusing and most don’t know the difference . That is why I will try to explain these things in this article with the hopes of teaching you something new.
- A comet is a body of ice, stone and dust that orbits the sun. It can be quite large with a diameter of a few kilometers. When the comet gets close enough to the sun the solar radiation heats up the icy core called the nucleus in the comet, and the ice evaporates. Due to the solar winds blowing the gasses away it makes the distinguished tail you see when you look at a picture of a comet. Parts of a comet can break off and can become the source of an coming meteoroid.
- An asteroid literally meaning “star-like” is an object made of rock and metals that also orbits the sun and has a diameter larger than 1 meter. Most of them reside in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, but they can also be in the orbital paths of planets and other regions of space. In contrast to the comets, an asteroid doesn’t have a tail when it gets close to the sun. When a part of the asteroid breaks off it can also form a meteoroid
- A meteoroid is a small object made out of rocks or metals. Most meteoroids form when a small part of an comet or asteroid breaks off. An meteors size difference between 1 meter and the size of a small grain, when the meteoroid is even smaller we speak of micrometeoroids.
- A meteor, also known as a shooting star or falling star, is the visible passage of a glowing meteoroid, micrometeoroid, comet or asteroid through Earth’s atmosphere. What this means is that it is the part of the entry through the atmosphere where the object burns up creating a big flare. Usually the object totally burns up, but when it survives and hits the ground it becomes an meteorite.
- A meteorite is an object from space that survives the entry through the atmosphere of a planet or a moon and hits the surface. A meteorite was not always a meteoroid in its former life. A good example is the Hoba meteorite that struck the earth in Namibia. With its size of 2.6 meters it is known as an asteroid.
If it still seams a little confusing here is a document I made to clarify.