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Space Glossary

Published: Monday, April 24, 2017 @ 7:39 AM
Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 8:18 AM
By: Breaking News Staff


Asteroid: A large space rock that stays in space. These rocky objects orbit the sun and are much smaller than planets.


Bolide: The light emitted by a large meteoroid or asteroid as it explodes in the atmosphere. Sound can sometimes be produced.


Comet: A solid body made of ice, rock, dust and frozen gases. As they fracture and disintegrate, some comets leave a trail of solid debris. 


Fireball: A very bright meteor. It is brighter than the planet Venus. There are several thousand meteors that are bright enough to be fireballs each day. Most occur over the ocean. 


Meteor: Sometimes called shooting stars. These are space objects that can as small as dust or as large as a rock. Once they enter the Earth’s atmosphere they are heated by friction burn up. The light emitted when traveling through the atmosphere is the meteor.


Meteorite: A meteor is able to survive the hot entry into the Earth’s atmosphere and reach the ground. 


Meteoroid: A smaller asteroid or space rock that can orbit the sun and become meteors if they enter the Earth’s atmosphere.


Meteor Shower: An annual event, when the Earth passes through a region having a great concentration of debris, such as particles left by a comet. From Earth, it looks like meteors radiate from the same point in the night sky.

Solar Eclipse: When the Moon moves between Earth and the Sun and the 3 celestial bodies form a straight line: Earth–Moon–Sun. Solar eclipses only occur during a New Moon.

Total Solar Eclipse: When the Moon completely covers the Sun, as seen from Earth.

Partial Solar Eclipse: When the Moon only partially covers the disk of the Sun.

Annular Solar Eclipse: When the Moon appears smaller than the Sun as it passes centrally across the solar disk and a bright ring, or annulus, of sunlight remains visible during the eclipse.

Hybrid Solar Eclipse: A rare form of solar eclipse, which changes from an annular to a total solar eclipse, and vice versa, along its path.


Lunar Eclipse: When Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon and blocks the Sun's rays from directly reaching the Moon. Lunar eclipses only happen at Full Moon.

Total Lunar Eclipse: When Earth's umbra – the central, dark part of its shadow – obscures all of the Moon's surface.

Partial Lunar Eclipse: When only part of the Moon's surface is obscured by Earth’s umbra.

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse: When the Moon travels through the faint penumbral portion of Earth’s shadow.