Asteroid vs. Comet vs. Meteor

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Difference between Asteroid, Comet and Meteor

People have wondered since ancient times which are the mysteries the space holds. With the help of technology and science we learned about asteroids, comets and meteors. We understand better now what generates them, which can be their trajectories through space and how to protect our planet from possible threats. For space enthusiasts, such phenomena are awaited with great interest. They have also been the subject of many movies and science fiction novels which hold their fair share of fans although they were usually portrayed negatively as leading to the end of the world.

Description

An asteroid is a small planet which orbits around the sun. It doesn't have a standard shape and can measure from a few meters in diameter to hundreds of kilometers. A comet is a space body made of ice, dust and small rocks which can produce a coma when getting close to the sun and also a tail. The tail is a result of the ionization process. When the dust reflects the sunlight the gas particles start to glow due to ionization and give the impression of a tail. A meteor is a brief and bright light which crosses the sky and it is due to the fact that a space body called meteoroid causes friction when entering the earth’s atmosphere.

Space distribution

In our solar system, thousands of asteroids are comprised in the asteroid belt between the planets Mars and Jupiter. Some orbit the Earth too. Comets orbit around the Sun. It usually takes a lot of time for a comet to complete a full ellipse. Some can be found at great distance in light years in the solar system. Meteors are temporary space phenomena which appear to us after they are in Earth’s atmosphere.

Visibility

An asteroid can be viewed through the necessary space observation tools. Some so called “near earth asteroids” can be visible without advanced techniques. For the human eye, comets are rarely visible as only a few can emit the amount of light needed to be spotted easily.  Some comets can be seen only once a year through telescopes. Such events are the main attraction for space fans all over the world. Brighter meteors can be seen by people without use of telescopes.

Summary

  • Asteroids, comets and meteors orbit the sun.
  • Asteroids are concentrated in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, comets can be found in all the solar systems and meteors appear in the earth’s atmosphere.
  • Only near Earth asteroids, bright comets and meteors can be seen with the naked eye.

Which space rock comes to Earth most often?
  • Asteroid
  • Comet
  • Meteor
 
 

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