Asteroid Watch: Fast Facts
What are the differences between an asteroid, comet, meteoroid, meteor, and meteorite?
A relatively small, inactive body orbiting the Sun. Asteroids are typically composed of rocky, dusty, and metallic materials. Most orbit within the main asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, but some follow paths that circulate into the inner solar system (including near-Earth asteroids), while others remain outside the orbit of Neptune.
A relatively small Sun-orbiting body that contains ices that vaporize when it gets close to the Sun and heats up, forming a large visible atmosphere (coma) around the object and, sometimes, a diffuse tail that can be millions of miles long. Comets typically follow long elliptical orbits in which they spend most of their time far from the Sun.
A small Sun-orbiting rock or particle less than about 3 feet (1 meter) in size.
A light phenomenon that results when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrates; popularly known as a “shooting star.” A larger object, such as a small asteroid, produces a very bright meteor called a fireball or bolide when entering the atmosphere.
A leftover piece of meteoroid or asteroid that survives its passage through the Earth's atmosphere and lands on Earth's surface.
For more on asteroids, comets, and meteors, see: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/asteroids-comets-and-meteors/
Are you an educator? JPL has many asteroid education resources that you can teach in the classroom and at home. Go to: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/learn/tag/search/Asteroids