Today's space rock scoreboard: one hit, one miss.
This morning's surprise meteor explosion over Russia and the near-Earth flyby of asteroid 2012 DA14 this afternoon constitute an amazing and confusing coincidence that underscores the need to keep monitoring the skies for dangerous objects and sort out the dangerous objects from the merely interesting.
Tune in to "Russian Meteor Explosion" Saturday, Feb. 16, at 8 E/P on Science Channel.
The first thing that needs sorting out, however, are the words: meteor, meteorite, meteoroid and asteroid. Meteoroids and asteroids are objects in space. Meteoroids can be bits of asteroids or bits of comets. When they are burning through Earth's atmosphere they are, for a few seconds, called meteors. If anything survives that fiery descent, the rocks found on the ground are called meteorites.
"The videos from Russia are all of the meteor," explained MIT planetary scientist expert Richard Binzel. "We'll have to wait and see if there are any meteorites" that fell to the ground in Russia.