Asteroid and meteorite: Connected?
Are these events connected?
The meteorite in Russia and the asteroid approaching this afternoon are “completely unrelated,” according to NASA. The trajectory of the meteorite differs substantially from asteroid 2012 DA14.
“Information is still being collected about the Russian meteorite, and analysis is preliminary at this point,” according to the NASA website. “In videos of the meteor, it is seen to pass from left to right in front of the rising sun, which means it was traveling from north to south. Asteroid DA14’s trajectory is in the opposite direction, from south to north.”
More from NASA.gov states that, “Asteroid 2012 DA14 is about 150 feet (45 meters) in diameter. It is expected to fly about 17,200 miles (27,000 kilometers) above Earth’s surface at the time of closest approach, which is about 11:25 a.m. PST (2:25 p.m. EST) on Feb. 15. This distance is well away from Earth and the swarm of low Earth-orbiting satellites, including the International Space Station, but it is inside the belt of satellites in geostationary orbit (about 22,200 miles, or 35,800 kilometers, above Earth’s surface.) The flyby of 2012 DA14 is the closest-ever predicted approach to Earth for an object this large.” Read more about Asteroid 2012 DA14 here.
What’s the difference between an asteroid and a meteorite and other space rocks?
According to NASA, here’s how you tell what kind of object is falling from the sky:
Asteroids are relatively small, inactive rocky bodies that orbit the sun.
Comets are also relatively small, and have ice on them that can vaporize in sunlight. This process forms an atmosphere and dust and gas; you might also see a “tail’ of dust or gas.
Meteoroids are small particles from comets or asteroids, orbiting the sun.
Meteors are meteoroids that enter the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporize, also known as shooting stars.
Meteorites are meteoroids that actually land on the Earth’s surface.
Generally meteorites are smaller than grains of sand and vaporize on passage through the atmosphere. But there are also larger meteorites, as wide as a few miles.
Comets and asteroids are left over from when the solar system formed. There used to be more of them, but over time they’ve collided to form major planets, or they’ve got booted from the inner solar system to the Oord cloud, or have been ejected from the solar system entirely.