Asteroids Vs Meteoroids Vs Meteors Vs Comets: What’s the difference?

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From their differences in sizes to the impact they could have on Earth. Join us as we explore the question. What’s the difference between comets vs asteroids vs meteoroids vs meteors and meteorites?

A whole lot of rocks. After hearing names like comets, asteroids, meteoroids, meteors, and meteorites, you likely are thinking that’s a lot of names for what is essentially space rocks, and you’re honestly not wrong. It does feel like a lot of names are being thrown around for as one is honestly just rocks. But you need to think of this in the grander scope of things.

Because just like there aren’t regular planets out there, or all-stars aren’t just one type. All of these rocks have a purpose in regards to their name, even if it doesn’t look like it at first, which is fine if you think about it, because most of the time we don’t need to know or care about these things. But when it comes to how we look at our universe, we need to differentiate them.

Let’s Start At The Beginning Of Everything

Okay? Once upon a time, all of these various space rocks didn’t exist. Whether you believe in a god or The Big Bang, the universe didn’t have anything at first and then the wave of creation was born.

The God or The Big Bang

For this Blog, we’ll look at things from The Big Bang perspective.

After the wave of energy and mass was delivered throughout the universe, then the gravity of various things like stars started to pull things together into tighter and tighter masses. This was how the planets got formed. But for the things that didn’t become planets, they became things like comets, asteroids, meteoroids, meteors, and meteorites, which means that these things, or at least many of these things, have been around since the beginning of the universe, and they played a part in shaping a great many things in order to turn the universe and even our solar system into what it is right now. Which means that while these names may feel superfluous. That doesn’t mean they aren’t impactful and, in fact, each and every one of these wrongs has an impact on whether you admit it or not.

So let’s dive into them and see what makes them so different and so special. So how about we start with obviously the most important one of the bunch asteroids? What do you think about world breakers, you’re likely thinking about an asteroid and for good reason. Although we’re being technical, not all asteroids are as big as you think. In fact, they can be quite small.

Asteroids

The smallest asteroid that we consider to be an asteroid is about three feet in length, which may not sound that impressive compared to the ones that we’re talking about, but you need to remember three feet in length is over half the size of an average human, which means if it were to hit Earth in that form, it could cause serious damage depending on where it lands.

Smallest Asteroid could cause Serious damage depending on where it lands

So if that’s the smallest pure asteroid what would be the biggest? Well, that’s a bit tricky because, at one point in time, it was a massive rock known as Sarah’s. This asteroid at the time was documented as being 590 miles in diameter, which is about one-quarter of the size of our moon.

If that thing hit us, yeah, we’d be in big trouble. But that’s the rub. It’s not a threat, not just because of distance, but because it’s on an orbit that technically won’t have it reach us in any conceivable fashion bearing a massive jarring of itself. Oh, and that’s the second rub. Sarah’s is so big that they actually made it a planet. Well, it’s actually a dwarf planet. But yeah, they think it’s so big that it can’t be called an asteroid anymore, which is fine, I suppose, but it makes you wonder just how many other space rocks neither reclassification.

Getting back on track.

Scale For an Asteroid

Scale For an Asteroid

The scale for an asteroid is now set between three feet and 590 miles in diameter. That’s quite a reach and that’s partially why asteroids are so dangerous. They range in sizes in terms of lengths, and they also have a variety of sizes that make them hard to find hard to track, and really unpredictable. Some of them are known to be dark masses of clay and others are bright shiny rocks made of metals like nickel or iron, and here’s the thing. If we take all the known asteroids in the solar system and beyond their combined mass is not even as much as our own moon.

To be clear, that doesn’t make them dangerous, but that helps us gauge what to expect from them, including knowing that a massive planet size asteroid isn’t heading our way anytime soon.

You might be wondering, now how is the earth so safe from asteroids?

When there are so many out there, you can think or neighborly planets for that. You see when our universe was formed, and by that extension our solar system, it’s true that there were a lot of big rocks floating around, but because of Mars and Jupiter, they were all corralled for the most part and trapped between the mass of gravities of these two planets.

The collisions that they caused, actually created more asteroids of various sizes. But again, they’re mostly trapped, meaning that Earth isn’t in immediate danger of them, or at least not yet.

Okay, So enough about asteroids. Let’s move on to something smaller.

Meteoroids

Meteoroids vs asteroids

I bet you didn’t even think meteoroids were a real thing before this blog, right? But you likely know them by their other name, shooting stars.

Confused? I’ll explain it. meteoroids are created in a very natural way. Mainly when massive asteroids collide with one another small chunks of them break off and get shot into space via momentum and gravitational forces. But unlike asteroids, these meteorites are incredibly small. They’ll never be bigger than three feet, the smallest size of a pure asteroid, and they can be as small as a grain of dust.

So in theory, there are more meteoroids out in space than all other space rocks combined. In theory, it’s really hard to tell how small they can be. Anyway, the reason that they are also known as shooting stars is that they can get burnt up in the atmosphere in such a way that they become a fiery flash of light, so strong, It’s said to be even brighter than the planet Venus, the streak across the sky with these intense streaks, and then they burn away into nothingness. Thus, they’re shooting stars.

Now you might be thinking, doesn’t that mean that meteors are also shooting stars?

That would be correct, because of meteoroids enter the Earth’s atmosphere, their classification is turned into meteors, and meteors are known to be bigger than meteoroids but still do the same thing. They’ll flash the atmosphere with brilliant intensity and cause the same shooting star effect, and of course, these things are in enough numbers.

Meteor Shower

They’ll create what is known as a meteor shower, which is one of the coolest things that you can see in the night sky, but what you might not realize is that although we may not see it, almost 48 tons of meteoroids and meteors fall to Earth every day.

The reason we don’t notice it, though, is because of how small they can be and the angles in which they fall to the earth. The distinction between them is small, but they do make a difference in the larger scale of things.

But wait a minute, you say, if that’s what meteoroids and meteors are, then what are meteorites?

Meteorites

A very good question, and thankfully, there’s a very simple answer to that. While meteors and meteoroids do most times burn up in the atmosphere, not all of them do. Sometimes they’re able to withstand the height of the atmosphere, burning them up, and they crash land on Earth. When that happens, they become meteorites.

Meteorites are the things that people at NASA and other space agencies trying to find all over the world. There have been shows on places like science channel that highlight the search for meteorites, why they need to find them because regardless of their size, or even where they came from, meteorites are a window into the creation of the universe itself. Knowing the meteorite’s composition, its materials, its makeup, etc. It can help paint a path into where it came from the events that caused it to fall to Earth, etc.

Meteorites are valuable, extremely valuable.

Meteorites are valuable, extremely valuable.

In fact, they can sell for thousands of dollars on the internet and are so desirable that people even try and sell fake ones. Oh, yeah, it happens. The reason for the value is that they’re so rare. Remember, at their core meteorites are just rocks. And when a rock hits a hard place like the earth, it means that they shatter and sometimes even explode. It’s not a pretty thing, and yet they can be valuable if they’re intact enough. I know I said that size doesn’t matter. But if you have an inch of meteorite, it’s not that useful. But if you get one that’s about six inches or a foot, or even one a few inches across that is shaped like a sphere which has happened before. That can change things.

It’s really hard to find them mainly because they’re so difficult to predict in terms of when they’re crashing to the earth or even where they crash into the earth. And even if they do land and don’t shatter too much, the weather can weather them down like regular stones.

Ironically, one of the best places to find intact meteorites is Antarctica because of how the snow and ice keep them solid and not withered away. Some of the biggest fines of meteorites happened in Antarctica, and many more fines are still to come.

Comets

Finally, there are comets that are honestly much different from all the other space rocks mentioned. This is because if we’re being technical comets aren’t rocks at all. They’re ice, water, and dust and they look much cooler than all the other space rocks.

Comets

You see asteroids, meteoroids, meteors, and meteorites are all solid rock inside and out. Sometimes they have metal as well. But the point here is that they’re missing solid for a comet though. It’s a nucleus of ice and gases that have been formed together, and they remain in a state of non-solidity that causes them to be much different.

Just as important though, while most asteroids meteoroids, meteors, and meteorites have a typical orbit or kept in check by planets, comets have a direct line of orbit with the sun, which is why they look how they do, because as they circle the sun, they start to have their ice melted, and their gas has expanded, and that creates the unique comet feature called a comma.

Comet’s Tail

You know it as its tail. This comet can streak across the sky, and even be thousands of miles long. That’s important to note because comets are so bright that they can be seen from Earth at quite a distance, not unlike the stars in the sky. When you see asteroids, meteoroids, meteors, and meteorites, it’s typically because they’re in our atmosphere. But barring something odd happening, you’ll never see a comet within our atmosphere. Because of the orbits, they have around the sun.

How far are they from Earth? Well, because of their composition, they were truly formed in the farthest reaches of our solar system. Most comets are within the Kuiper Belt and the Oort cloud, which is beyond Neptune. That’s why the sun doesn’t bring them up. And even when they get close to it, it’s just enough heat to make the tale and nothing more. You know, one of the most famous of these comets, I hope, Halley’s comet. It’s so big and reliable that it shows up about every 70 years. And it’s been doing that for many generations.

All right, So Let’s End This With A Bang

Which of these comets, asteroids, meteorites, meteors, and meteorites, do we need to fear one way or another?

Well, like we said a little bit ago, barring something weird. You’ll never have to fear a comet. meteoroids, meteors, meteorites can be harmful, especially if they hit the atmosphere in just the right way. The meteorites that hit the Earth and there have been some extremely unfortunate cases where such rock has hit a person and killed them on the spot. No, seriously, it happened and yeah, it’s rare, but it happened.

In terms of planetary destruction though, there’s only one real option. asteroids. This was the kind of rock that killed the dinosaurs. And NASA, among others, is openly scouting the solar system to make sure that such a space rock doesn’t decide to do around to on the earth. Believe it or not, though, we’ve come close before in Russia not too long ago, an asteroid enters dry atmosphere and exploded in the air above a forest in the country. The Shockwave shattered windows from cities miles away, and the fires of that explosion torched many trees.

Fun Fact about Asteroids vs meteoroids

Fun Fact

Here’s another fun fact an asteroid that could have wiped out the earth was once only hours away from hitting us. The Earth was out of position but if that rock was just a little quicker or Earth’s orbit just a little slower? It would have wiped us out. So what do you fear in terms of space rocks? asteroids.

That’s what? Thanks for visiting everyone. What did you think of this breakdown of comets vs asteroids vs meteoroids vs meteors vs meteorites? Did you learn something new about these space rocks that you didn’t know before? Do you feel safer being on earth now that you know these various things about them? Or is the opposite true? Let me know in the comments below.


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