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Asteroids, Comets, and Meteors
Are you ready? Are you ready to
learn all about the craziness
that are these celestial
Great! Let’s go!
A rocky object revolving around the sun
It is smaller than a planet (this is what
makes it different from terrestrial/rocky
They are found between the orbits of Mars
and Jupiter in the Asteroid Belt!
A small clump of ice and dust with an
extremely elliptical (oval) orbit around the
As it nears the sun on it’s orbit, the ice
sublimates (goes straight from a solid to a
gas) and forms the coma and tail.
The comet becomes visible because the
gas gets into an excited state and lights
up (kind of like neon lights)
Hubble details an incredible Comet:
This is a picture of
comet 73P breaking
up as it is passing by
The comet was 1.17
AU from the sun and
.22 AU from Earth.
Photo credit: NSA, ESA, STSci
Are solid, interplanetary particles
passing through Earth’s atmosphere.
These solid objects (usually also rocky)
are usually headed towards earth.
Depending on their specific location
(outside the atmosphere, inside the
atmosphere or on the ground) it has a
Meteors? Meteorites? Meteoroids? What’s
The Quick Trick:
- “oids” are outside the atmosphere, - “ites”
are inside it, and – “ors” are in between.
Meteoroids outside atmosphere (
meteoroids are in the void of space)
Meteorites on Earth’s surface ( meteorites
are in the earth tight)
Meteors are in-between
The Life of a Meteor…
Please draw something
similar to the image on
the right in your notes
At each stage, write a
short description of what
is happening that is
making it “change” and
label each stage
Comets vs. Meteors
(what’s the difference?)
If both look like bright streaks of light in
the sky, how can you tell the difference?
Comets seemingly hang motionless in the sky
whereas meteors quickly streak across the sky
(shooting star) and are only seen for a fraction
of a second
Comets are millions of miles away, meteors
are in our atmosphere.
Comets are orbiting the sun, Meteors are
headed towards the Earth’s surface.