Single Serving Subject: Asteroids and Meteors!

Single Serving Subject: Asteroids and Meteors!

Asteroid 2012-DA14 as it passes by Earth (via NASA)

“No one should be overly concerned about an Earth impact of an asteroid or comet. The threat to any one person from auto accidents, disease, other natural disasters and a variety of other problems is much higher than the threat from near earth objects. Over long periods of time, however, the chances of the Earth being impacted are not negligible so that some form of NEO insurance is warranted. At the moment, our best insurance rests with the NEO scientists and their efforts to first find these objects and then track their motions into the future. We need to first find them, then keep an eye on them.” – NEO Program, NASA

Wow! What an incredible day! One thing I recently learned is that asteroid and meteor are not interchangeable. In fact they all represent different stages of the objects in space and as they approach earth. Here’s the break down from NASA:

Asteroid A relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun.
Comet A relatively small, at times active, object whose ices can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas.
Meteoroid A small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun.
Meteor The light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes; a shooting star.
Meteorite A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and lands upon the Earth’s surface.


The object that exploded over Russia was a meteor because it vaporized and exploded in our atmosphere. The object 2012-DA14 which was still outside of our atmosphere is an asteroid.  Scientists at this moment firmly believe the two instances were just a coincidence and that the Russian meteor was not linked to asteroid 2012-DA14 as their timings were very far apart in cosmic relativity and we would have seen more meteors.

I don’t think there is any reason to panic, but just take these events as a reminder to how big the universe is, how small we are within it, and how petty some of our problems can really be.  We need to inspire a new generation of physicists and engineers to help us face these future problems and help move earth forward into a positive direction. They are the ones who will bring upon a bright future.


NASA: Near Earth Object Program

A wonderful resource for explaining the science behind the objects in space. They have some great images too! Also it might help you to look at the “Impact Risk” chart.

The Planetary Society

Asteroid 2012-DA14 was disovered because of a grant from the Planetary Society. They have incredibly detailed information about both the asteroid and the meteor.

NASA for Students

You gotta check out the NASA for student’s page. Find out what’s going on out there in all that space!

And of COURSE follow these two guys on Twitter for some educational tweets and sometimes hilarious responses.

Neil deGrasse Tyson: @neiltyson

Bill Nye: @TheScienceGuy

So what’s your favorite thing about space?  Have any other suggestions? Post them in the comments!
The following two tabs change content below.
BJ is co-founder of BJ Pinchbeck's Homework Helper. In addition to his work on the homework helper website he is a filmmaker and photographer in Miami Beach, FL.

Latest posts by BJ Pinchbeck (see all)


Comments are closed.