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Meteors, Asteroids, and Comets, With Pictures

Updated on March 2, 2013

Its easy to mix these three up! Here's some info so you'll never get it wrong again.

Comet Hyakutake, 1996
Comet Hyakutake, 1996

Asteroids

Asteroids are basically leftover chunks of material orbiting in space. These asteroids occasionally collide and change their orbit. The Asteroid belt is located between Mars and Jupiter.

Below I've included an image of the asteroid Gaspra, which was the first asteroid ever to be closely approached by a spacecraft, in the year 1991. Gaspra orbits very close to the inner edge of the asteroid belt.

The Asteroid Gaspra
The Asteroid Gaspra
Meteor Shower, shooting stars
Meteor Shower, shooting stars

Meteoroids, Meteors, and Meteorites

Try repeating those 3 words 10 times fast.

Meteoroids are chunks of rock , the size of a grain of sand our the size of a large boulder, that are floating around in the solar system.

Meteors are meteoroids that get into the Earth's atmosphere and burn up . These are also called shooting stars. 40,000 tonnes of meteors enter the Earth's atmosphere every day.

Meteorites actually hit the Earth's surface . This happens a lot, but you can't usually see the signs of impacts because so much of our planet is covered by the ocean, and because they're weathered away.

Meteorite damage in France
Meteorite damage in France
The Comet Hale-Bopp
The Comet Hale-Bopp

Comets

Comets are composed of ice, rocks, and dust, and are sometimes called "dirty snowballs".

Short period comets come back in less than 200 years, such as Halley's comet, which comes every 76 years (I'm hoping I'll still be around when it comes back in 2061). You can only see a comet when it is close to the sun. The tail is produced by solar wind, so it is always pointing away from the sun. When comets come around, they bring meteor showers with them. They are beautiful sights.


I LOVE this book

Field Guide to Meteors and Meteorites (The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series)
Field Guide to Meteors and Meteorites (The Patrick Moore Practical Astronomy Series)

As you may have guessed, I'm a pretty big backyard astronomy geek. I was totally absorbed by this book.

 

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    • stephaniedas profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Das 

      6 years ago from Miami, US

      Thanks for the compliment, Utkarsha Kedari.

    • profile image

      Utkarsha kedari 

      6 years ago

      the images are verygreat

    • stephaniedas profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Das 

      6 years ago from Miami, US

      I'm glad you liked it!

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 

      6 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      Great photos to accompany your excellent descriptions/definitions.

    • stephaniedas profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Das 

      6 years ago from Miami, US

      Thanks! I appreciate the nice comment.

    • kat11 profile image

      kat11 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      Photos Are Awesome. Great Hub

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