What is an asteroid? They also make very impressive sky displays as they break into fragments and burn up in their passage through Earth's atmosphere. The gas flies off the comet, sometimes violently enough to break the nucleus apartand throws dust up with it.
There is no exact diameter that distinguishes an asteroid from a meteoroid.
Thus a meteor, or shooting star, is formed. Credit: Andrzej Wojcicki Getty Images Advertisement Adding up all of the mass in every asteroid in our entire solar system totals only less than the mass of our Moon. Some should also be fairly easy to land on for future exploration. They approach Earth's orbit to within 7.
Short-period comets mainly originate from the Kuiper belt, a region in the solar system with many millions of icy bodies extending from about 30 AU about the orbit of Neptune to 50 AU.
The dust particles are pushed away from the comet by solar radiation, forming a dust tail that can be many millions of miles long. This allows for the possibility of a future collision. Scientists believe stray asteroids or fragments from earlier collisions have slammed into Earth in the past, playing a major role in the evolution of our planet.
If these fireballs also break apart or explode during their atmospheric flight - sometimes accompanied by considerable audible sounds - they are called a bolide.
Earth plows through the dust, and the particles form meteors as they hit the atmosphere.
Meteorites Finally, every asteroid or meteoroid that survives its passage through Earth's atmosphere and this is the rare exception can be advanced to be called a meteorite.