Big Red Car here. Hey, did you see that business about something striking the Earth in Russia?
Wow, it was huge! What was it?
Was it an asteroid, comet, meteor, meteroid, metorite or a near Earth object? OMG, what was it?
Look at this article to understand what happened. Here.
So what are these various things?
An asteroid is a little planet — planetoid — so these babies are very big, potentially. They are usually well behaved hanging out with the asteroid pals in the “asteroid belt” out there between Mars and Jupiter. They are generally classified as being carbon-rich, stony or metallic.
We get hit by an asteroid and we are in big trouble.
Comets are hunks of ice, frozen gases, dust, and rocks which cast a tail. This tail or “coma” is the distinguishing element of a comet. A comet can be pretty damn big. As big as 40 kilometers in diameter. Wow.
When a comet comes in Earth’s atmosphere, it can result in a “meteor” shower — see why this is so damn confusing?
There are about 4,800 comets out there.
Most famous comet? Haley’s Comet!
A meteor is the visible trace of a meteoroid in the Earth’s atmosphere. The visible tail. Oh, man, this is getting confusing for a Big Red Car.
Small particle — boulder sized to fine sand in size — which enters Earth’s atmosphere and heads toward earth. Known as a falling star or a shooting star.
If a meteroid survives to impact the Earth, then it is called a “meteorite”.
Near Earth Object
A near earth object is an object of any kind that comes into close proximity of our dear Earth. It could be some of the above items. Confusing, no?
These things can be very dangerous:
2002 Eastern Mediterranean event
On 6 June 2002 an object with an estimated diameter of 10 meters collided with Earth. The collision occurred over the Mediterranean Sea, between Greece and Libya, at approximately 34°N 21°E and the object exploded in mid-air. The energy released was estimated (from infrasound measurements) to be equivalent to 26 kilotons of TNT, comparable to a small nuclear weapon.
So what happened out there in Russia?
It was a meteorite. An undetected and surprise meteorite. That is the technical description though you will see it described as a “meteor”. Hell, you know better.
This meteorite — did not survive to hit the Earth intact though parts of it did — exploded over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk releasing energy equivalent to several hundred tons of TNT. It exploded between 20 and 30 miles above the earth. It was so bright, it cast shadows during midday. Wow!
It was about 50 feet in diameter and had a mass of several thousand tons. As it entered the Earth’s atmosphere, it looked like a ball of fire and was going 34,000 MPH — faster than the Big Red Car who has never gone faster than say 140 MPH but we are not going to talk about that just now.
The airburst explosion unleashed enormous damage and many windows and roof were damaged. It was quite spectacular and fearsome.
So now, you know. Very confusing, eh?
But, hey, what the Hell do I know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.