Comet, meteor or meteorite? - Illustration
2015-08-12 - Illustration providing an overview of the characteristics of comets, asteroids, meteoroids, meteors, fireballs and meteorites. (Credit: Canadian Space Agency)
A mass of ice, rock and dust drifting in space that often has a tail, which grows as it gets closer to the Sun. The tail is made up of dust and various materials ionized by solar energy.
A body made up of rocks, both metallic and non-metallic, that orbits the Sun, usually found in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. They range in size from a few centimetres to nearly a thousand kilometres across.
A solid body, often an asteroid fragment, typically larger than a grain of sand and smaller than one metre across, flying through interplanetary space.
A meteoroid that enters Earth's atmosphere becomes a meteor. It burns up as it travels through the atmosphere, producing a streak of light. A meteor can appear as a lone object (shooting star) or in clusters (meteor shower).
A meteor that burns as it travels through our atmosphere, leaving behind a very bright streak of light. Sometimes, it is even visible during the day. This rather rare phenomenon is the result of a meteoroid that is larger or denser than usual.
When a meteoroid does not completely burn up as it travels through the atmosphere, the fragment found on the ground is called a meteorite.
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