Difference Between Meteor, Meteorite, Comet, & Asteroid

  • Near Earth Object (NEO) – Near Earth Objects are asteroids or comets that have orbits around the Sun that bring them close to the Earth. The actual definition of an NEO is a comet or asteroid whose orbit brings it close to Earth’s orbit.
  • Asteroid – A relatively small, inactive body, composed of rock, carbon or metal, which is orbiting the Sun.
  • Comet – A relatively small, sometimes active object, which is composed of dirt and ices. Comets are characterised by dust and gas tails when in proximity to the Sun. Far from the Sun it is difficult to distinguish an asteroid from a comet.
  • Meteoroid – A small particle from an asteroid or comet orbiting the Sun.
  • Meteor – A meteoroid that is observed as it burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere – a shooting star.
  • Meteorite – A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and impacts the Earth’s surface.

In summation, an asteroid is a relatively small object out in space. When an asteroid breaks through our atmosphere and burns up, it becomes a meteor. If the asteroid manages to get all the way through our atmosphere and actually hits the surface of the planet, it is classified as a meteorite.

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Nerdy Goodness

I've had an interest in geoscience since I was a child... but I never knew that you could actually DO anything with it for a career. Consequently, I ended up going to school for Visual Communications / Marketing and have been working in that field for over 10 years now. My interest in geoscience was dormant for those years but has recently been reawakened. What am I going to do about this reawakened interest? I'm not sure. I have realized though, that there are a wealth of fields one can go into with that background --geotechnical engineering, geochemist, geophysicist, geological engineer, urban planning, consulting, etc. I'm interested in geospatial intelligence, but before I can delve into that, I need a foundation of knowledge to work on.

This is where this website comes in: I will be posting my learnings, thoughts, etc. here.

A lot of things posted here may be exretemly basic since I've forgotten majority of what I learned in my geo classes in primary & secondary school. But I'm learning! Any extra insight or corrections will be gladly received!

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To many of us, the Earth's crust is a relic of ancient, unknowable history. But to a geologist, stones are richly illustrated narratives, telling gothic tales of cataclysm and reincarnation. For more than four billion years, in beach sand, granite, and garnet schists, the planet has kept a rich and idiosyncratic journal of its past. Fulbright Scholar Marcia Bjornerud takes the reader along on an eye-opening tour of Deep Time, explaining in elegant prose what we see and feel beneath our feet. Containing a glossary and detailed timescale, as well as vivid descriptions and historic accounts, Reading the Rocks is literally a history of the world, for all friends of the Earth.

Author: Marcia Bjornerud