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What are the differences between Asteroids, meteorites and comets as mentioned by NASA

In our solar system, there are billions, if not trillions, of rogue objects orbiting the sun. Because they are too small to be referred to as planets, they have given the names comets, asteroids, meteoroids, and, if they reach Earth, meteors or meteorites. It’s easy to lose sight of what belongs where when there are so many labels.

NASA recently published an article on the differences between Asteroids, meteorites, and comets.

Asteroids: The planets that once existed in our solar system are now nothing more than rocky, lifeless husks. The majority of them circle our solar system in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and range in size from the size of cars to dwarf planets.

The rocky, airless remnants of planet formation in our solar system are known as asteroids. The majority of them circle our solar system in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and range in size from the size of cars to dwarf planets. Despite their small size, asteroids are also referred to as “planetoids” or tiny planets (the aggregate mass of all asteroids is less than that of the moon of Earth). They range in size from the smallest rocks, which are 3 feet across, to the largest asteroid, Ceres, which is more than a quarter the size of Earth’s moon (about 590 miles in diameter, or 950 kilometers). Ceres and Pluto were given the contentious title of dwarf planets in 2006 due to their relative sizes.

Most asteroids are oblong and have a surface covered in many craters from collisions with other asteroids, giving them the appearance of huge space potatoes. Only a small portion of asteroids, like Ceres, have enough mass to be shaped into spheres by gravity. According to NASA, asteroids can be composed of anything from dull, solid amalgamations of metals like iron or nickel to brilliant, gleaming piles of clay and silicate rocks.

Meteorites: Meteoroids are small asteroids, comet fragments, and even planets. They range in size from sand grains to rocks that are three feet (one meter) wide. When meteoroids enter a planet’s atmosphere, they become meteors. The fragments of meteors that survive the atmosphere and touch down on a planet are known as meteorites.

When meteoroids interact with the atmosphere of a planet, like Earth, they become meteors. A meteor’s dazzling burst, which can be brighter than Venus when it burns up in the atmosphere, is why it is known as a “shooting star,” according to NASA. More than 48 tonnes (43,500 kilograms) of meteoritic debris are estimated to fall to Earth each day by scientists. If a meteor survives its climb through the atmosphere and collides with the ground, it is referred to as a meteorite. When Earth travels through a comet’s cometary debris trail, hundreds of shooting stars can be visible in the night sky as a meteor shower.

Comets: Comets are filthy space snowballs that formed 4.6 billion years ago during the solar system’s creation and are largely made of ice and dust. Beyond Neptune, at the furthest reaches of the solar system, the vast majority of comets follow stable orbits.

Astronomer Fred Whipple coined the phrase “dirty snowballs” or “icy clumps of frozen gases and dust” to describe comets. The central core of a comet, according to NASA, is composed of a snowball that is normally only a few kilometers in diameter. The ice begins sublimating from solid to gas as the comet’s nucleus warms up as it approaches the sun. This results in a coma, or surrounding environment, that can grow to be thousands of kilometers wide around the comet. The sun’s radiation pressure blows away the material in the coma, resulting in a protracted, brilliant dust tail. The gas is ionized by high-energy solar rays, which creates a distinction tail and a second tail as a result.

Asteroids formed close to the hot nebula’s core, where only rock or metal remained solid in the extreme temperatures. Comets developed above the so-called frost line, where temperatures were sufficiently cold for gases like carbon dioxide to freeze. The Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud are the solar system’s outermost regions, where comets are therefore most frequently encountered.

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