What are asteroids, comets, meteors: What is the difference? Check here | Tech News

What are asteroids, comets, meteors: What is the difference? Check here

  • Asteroids, comets and meteors are planetary objects orbiting the Sun. A NASA scientist explains the difference here.

| Updated on: Aug 21 2022, 22:19 IST
Asteroids, comets and meteors are different from each other. Here is what the NASA scientist says.
Asteroids, comets and meteors are different from each other. Here is what the NASA scientist says. (NASA)

Space, solar system, or the entire universe, are some of the biggest sources of fascination for humanity. The quest to know and find out more about the planets and the other objects in space is a constant endeavour. In this quest, we often come across words like asteroids, comets and meteors, but not everybody knows how different they are from each other. In order to explain the same, NASA has posted a video titled, "We Asked a NASA Expert: What's the Difference Between Asteroids, Comets, and Meteors?" on its YouTube channel.

These space rocks have their own unique attributes and they are all planetary objects orbiting the Sun. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist Ryan Park has explained the difference between asteroids, comets and meteors.

What are Asteroids? Asteroids are small, rocky objects and when seen in a telescope, appear as a point of light. Most asteroids are found in a ring between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter called the asteroid belt. Some asteroids are round, some are elongated, and some even have a satellite of their own.

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Scientists think there are probably millions of asteroids, ranging widely in size from hundreds of kilometers across to less than one kilometer (a little more than one-half mile) wide. Occasionally, asteroids' orbital paths are influenced by the gravitational tug of planets, which cause their paths to alter. Scientists believe stray asteroids or fragments from earlier collisions have slammed into Earth in the past, playing a major role in the evolution of our planet.

What are comets? Comets orbits the Sun, but unlike asteroids, they are composed of ice and dust. So, when a comet gets closer to the Sun, its ice and dust content start to vaporize. So, when seen in a telescope, a comet appears fuzzy and/or has a huge tail behind it. Scientists believe that impacts from comets played a role in the evolution of Earth billions of years ago. One theory suggests that comets brought some of the water and a variety of organic molecules to the early Earth causing life to spring up here.

What are meteors and meteorites? Meteorites are small pieces broken off of asteroids or comets. They are typically pebble-sized, but could be a little smaller or a little larger, and are often created by a collision. When meteoroids get close to the Earth and enter the atmosphere it burns up and produces a streak of light that we usuallly refer to as a shooting star. So, if you have seen a shooting star, you likely saw a meteor.

And, finally, if a meteor survives the carnage in the atmosphere and lands on the ground, it is called a meteorite.

So, what is the difference between asteroids, comets, and meteors? Well, asteroids are rocky, comets are icy, and meteors are much smaller and are the shooting stars that you see up in the sky quite frequently. In fact, Earth is bombarded by these meteorites on a daily basis.

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First Published Date: 26 Nov, 11:27 IST