An asteroid is a small body that orbits the sun.  There are between 1 to 2 million asteroids larger than a kilometer in diameter in between Mars and Jupiter.  They are composed of stones, irons, or both and come from either small planets that were destroyed in between Mars and Jupiter or are simply fragments that never got to become part of a planet.  Comets are asteroids that orbit the sun in an elliptical manner and Amor objects are asteroids that orbit the earth.  Close asteroids ones are called NEO’s (Near Earth Objects) and we only know about 150 of them (each of a diameter between 1 to 8 km).  Larger asteroids are called planetoids or minor planets, while smaller ones are usually called meteoroids.  When a meteoroid enters our atmosphere we call it a meteor.

Most meteors break up into pieces or burn up and become fireballs or bolides.  If a meteor or its pieces hit the surface, we call that a meteorite.  Wherever the meteorite hits is called the impact crater.  We can get hit directly by an asteroid/comet, meteor shower made by the debris of a comet/asteroid, or a meteorite from another planets volcanic eruption.  These meteoroids can hit the earth’s atmosphere as speeds between 11 to 73 kilometers per second.  Before impact it will lose fragments and slow down to a range between 100 to 250 meters per second.  At this speed the meteorite stops glowing and losing pieces.  There can be faster meteorites that won’t slow down or lose mass at all.  An asteroid with a diameter of 7 meters enters our atmosphere with as much energy as the nuclear bomb used in World War II about every 5 years.  About 500 meteorites reach the Earth’s surface every year with about 5 or 6 creating a weather radar signature.  In any given year, the odds that you will be hit by an impact or its resulting air burst are between 1 and 250,000.

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