The Difference Between Various Types of Space Rocks

The European Space Agency and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich created an informative animation explaining the difference between space rocks such as asteroids, meteors, meteoroids, and comets. As it turns out, they all start as asteroids within the Asteroid Belt. Where they go from there changes what they become.

Between Mars and Jupiter, we find the asteroid belt due to the mighty gravitational effects of Jupiter. These chunks of rock and metal couldn’t come together to form a planet and instead made up a solar junkyard of sorts. … Sometimes they collide with each other and get knocked off course and even out of the belt altogether on a very different journey through the solar system. There are lots of names associated with space rocks, so what’s the difference?

Essentially, asteroids are the larger of the free-floating rocks, meteoroids are the smallest. When they fly through the Earth’s atmosphere, they become meteors. Comets are icy rocks that come off of gas giants such as Jupiter and collide with debris on their journey toward the sun. Fireworks are the brilliant trails of debris that flow behind a comet.

Space Rocks

via Moss and Fog