Glossary

Glossary items by topic: Asteroids & Meteors

Asteroid

A small solar system object composed mostly of rock. Many of these objects orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. Their sizes range anywhere from 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter to less than 620 miles (1,000 kilometers). The largest known asteroid, Ceres, has a diameter of 579 miles (926 kilometers).

Asteroid Belt

A region of space between Mars and Jupiter where the great majority of asteroids is found.

Bolide

Large, brilliant meteors that enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Friction between a fast-moving meteor and Earth’s air molecules generates tremendous heat, which causes the meteor to heat up, glow, and perhaps disintegrate. In some cases, the meteor literally explodes, leaving a visible cloud that dissipates slowly.

Carbonaceous Chondrite

A meteorite with embedded pebble-sized granules that contain significant quantities of organic (complex carbon-rich) matter.

Meteor

A bright streak of light in the sky caused when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere. The streak of light is produced from heat generated by the meteoroid traveling into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Meteorite

The remains of a meteoroid that plunges to the Earth’s surface. A meteorite is a stony or metallic mass of matter that did not completely vaporize when it entered the Earth’s atmosphere.

Meteoroid

A small, solid object moving through space. A meteoroid produces a meteor when it enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

Micrometeoroid

A very small meteoroid with a diameter of less than a millimeter. Micrometeoroids form the bulk of the interplanetary solid matter scattered throughout the solar system.

 
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