What is the Difference between meteor, comet, asteroid etc is a nagging question for many. Well, here we explain them.


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Meteoroid | Meteor | Meteorite
Fukang Meteorite

What is an Asteroid

Asteroids are large chunks of rocks that goes around the sun. They are classified so because, they are far smaller in size than any planet. usually few kilometers in radius. In fact, there is a region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter which has a high concentration of asteroids and it is called The Asteroid Belt. Sometimes, they crash on each other and end up moving in a perturbed direction. Some of them might start moving towards the Sun crossing earth’s orbit as well. Their composition is majorly rocks and solid metals.

What is a Comet

Comets are also large bodies similar to an asteroid. Unlike asteroids they usually have three charecteristics :

Comet Hale Bopp C1995 O1
Comet Hale Bopp was visible on the sky for 18 months during 1997
  1. Their composition contains a significant amount of ice, methane, ammonia etc.
  2. They usually follow a fixed orbital time around the sun. The orbital period might vary from 70 years, 200 years or even more.
  3. They follow an elliptical path with one end closer to sun and the other end very far from the sun.

When comets come closer to sun, the ice, methane etc present in them starts to “melt” and becomes a fuzzy, cloud-like shell around it called coma and a cone-shaped tail. Comet Hale Bopp was visible on the sky for 18 months during 1997.

What is a Meteoroid

When asteroids collide each other, small pieces gets chipped off and those smaller pieces floating in the space are called Meteoroid. They are termed as meteroid only if their radius is smaller than a kilometer and most often they are only millimeters in size

What is a Meteor

Sometimes some meteoroids enter the Earth’s atmosphere. They are often so small that they vaporize completely and never reach the surface of earth. When they get vapourised, they make nice streak of light. They are called Meteors. Apart from the scientific name Meteor, they also have many pet names like shooting star, falling star, wishing star etc.

What is a Meteorite

Rarely, some of the meteoroids that enter earth’s atmosphere may not get burnt completely and the remaining piece will land on earth’s surface. They are called Meteorites. Majority of such meteorites are very small in size like a grain or a pebble. However, there have been meteorites that were discovered which are huge and some wiegh more than 100 KGs. Fukang meteorite is one such that weighs more than 1000 KG.

Fukang Meteorite

fukang meteorite polished
fukang meteorite polished

The Fukang meteorite is a meteorite that was found in the mountains near Fukang, China in 2000. It is a pallasite iron meteorite with olivine crystals. it is estimated to be 4.5 billion years old.

Do meteorites contain gold? Sometimes yes! Atleast the fukang meteorite has some gold (Au) in it. More details can be found in the wiki page for fukang meteorite

Do people get Hurt by Meteorite?

Yes, people could get hurt if a meteorite falls on them but, the probability of a meteorite hitting a person is miniscule. The only documented person to have injured by a meteorite is Ann Elizabeth Fowler Hodges of Alabama, USA and it was on November 30, 1954.

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