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Asteroids, Comets, Meteors, and Meteorites

A compilation of educational materials about asteroids, comets, meteors, and meteorites
meteor poster from American Meteor Society
Download this American Meteor Society poster comparing comets, asteroids, and meteorites.

What is the difference?

  • An asteroid is a rocky object that orbits the Sun. Asteroids are smaller than a planet, but they are larger than the pebble-size objects we call meteoroids. 
  • Comets are small icy dirtballs that orbit the Sun; comets are made of ice and dust while asteroids are made of rock).
  • A meteor is a space rock—or meteoroid—that enters Earth's atmosphere, as it – burns up upon entering Earth’s atmosphere, it creating a streak of light in the sky (often called "shooting stars"). When Earth encounters many meteoroids at once, we call it a meteor shower.
  • If a meteoroid survives its trip through Earth’s atmosphere and lands on the Earth’s surface, it is called a meteorite.

Banner images above, left to right:
Asteroid Bennu (NASA),
Fireball Meteor over Groningen the Netherlands (Robert Mikaelyan), and Comet 67P (ESA)

Asteroid Day logo June 30th

Asteroid Day

screenshot of the astromaterials meteorite viewer

NASA Resources

an artistic depiction of NASA OSIRIS-REx mission
Artistic depiction of OSIRIS-Rex mission

Featured NASA Missions and Programs


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