A compilation of educational materials about asteroids, comets, meteors, and meteorites including resources for Asteroid Day, meteor showers, and links to NASA missions such as Lucy, OSIRIS-Rex, Psyche, Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), and Near-Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout).
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)
Now Discover all Our Near-Earth Object Asteroids and Comets using NASA Eyes.
Through the NASA’s Eyes on Asteroids visualization tool, you can now explore the asteroids and comets that approach Earth’s orbital neighborhood – and the spacecraft that visit these objects – with a click or a swipe. Thousands of asteroids and dozens of comets are discovered every single year, some of which – called near-Earth objects (NEOs) – follow orbits that pass through the inner solar system. With their numbers rising daily, these objects are tracked carefully by NASA-funded astronomers in case any might pose an impact threat to our planet. The daily-updated Eyes on Asteroids depicts the orbits of every known NEO, providing detailed information on those objects. Using the slider at the bottom of the screen, you can travel quickly forward and backward through time to see their orbital motions.
Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is a planetary defense-driven test to change the motion of an asteroid in space. (DART’s target asteroid is NOT a threat to Earth. DART is a test. There are no known asteroid threats to Earth).