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This image courtesy of NASA obtained February 15, 2013 shows asteroid 2012 DA14 (the white dot in the middle of picture) taken by the FRAM Telescope in Argentina, part of the GLObal Robotic-telescopes Intelligent Array (GLORIA) project, in advance of its close - but safe - approach to Earth. / AFP photo/NASA/Gloria project/FRAM

Asteroid: A rocky object that orbits the sun. These can range between slightly smaller than a planet down to half a mile across.

Comet: An object made up of ice, dust and rocks that orbits the sun. When comets pass near the sun some of the ice vaporizes and a tail of water vapor and dust forms. The dust reflects sunlight and the gases ionize, making the comet and its tail visible on Earth.

Meteoroid: A particle as small as a grain of sand to 32 feet across that orbits the sun.

Meteor: The streak of light produced by a meteoroid as it enters and burns up in Earth's atmosphere. Sometimes called a shooting star.

Meteorite: A meteoroid that survives the trip through the Earth's atmosphere and strikes the ground.

Sources: NASA, International Astronomical Union



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