COMETS AND ASTEROIDS
A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when passing close to the Sun, warms and begins to release gases, a process called outgassing. This produces a visible atmosphere or coma, and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind acting upon the nucleus of the comet. Comet nuclei range from a few hundred metres to tens of kilometres across and are composed of loose collections of ice, dust, and small rocky particles. The coma may be up to 15 times the Earth's diameter, while the tail may stretch one astronomical unit. If sufficiently bright, a comet may be seen from the Earth without the aid of a telescope and may subtend an arc of 30° (60 Moons) across the sky. Comets have been observed and recorded since ancient times by many cultures.
Comets usually have highly eccentric elliptical orbits, and they have a wide range of orbital periods, ranging from several years to potentially several millions of years. Short-period comets originate in the Kuiper belt or its associated scattered disc, which lie beyond the orbit of Neptune. Long-period comets are thought to originate in the Oort cloud, a spherical cloud of icy bodies extending from outside the Kuiper belt to halfway to the nearest star.
Long-period comets are set in motion towards the Sun from the Oort cloud by gravitational perturbations caused by passing stars and the galactic tide. Hyperbolic comets may pass once through the inner Solar System before being flung to interstellar space. The appearance of a comet is called an apparition.
Asteroids are minor planets, especially those of the inner Solar System. The larger ones have also been called planetoids. These terms have historically been applied to any astronomical object orbiting the Sun that did not show the disc of a planet and was not observed to have the characteristics of an active comet. As minor planets in the outer Solar System were discovered and found to have volatile-based surfaces that resemble those of comets, they were often distinguished from asteroids of the asteroid belt. In this article, the term "asteroid" refers to the minor planets of the inner Solar System including those co-orbital with Jupiter.
There are millions of asteroids, many thought to be the shattered remnants of planetesimals, bodies within the young Sun's solar nebula that never grew large enough to become planets. The large majority of known asteroids orbit in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, or are co-orbital with Jupiter (the Jupiter trojans). However, other orbital families exist with significant populations, including the near-Earth objects. Individual asteroids are classified by their characteristic spectra, with the majority falling into three main groups: C-type, M-type, and S-type. These were named after and are generally identified with carbon-rich, metallic, and silicate (stony) compositions, respectively. The size of asteroids varies greatly, the largest is almost 1,000 km (625 mi) across.
Asteroids are differentiated from comets and meteoroids. In the case of comets, the difference is one of composition: while asteroids are mainly composed of mineral and rock, comets are composed of dust and ice. In addition, asteroids formed closer to the sun, preventing the development of the aforementioned cometary ice. The difference between asteroids and meteoroids is mainly one of size: meteoroids have a diameter of less than one meter, whereas asteroids have a diameter of greater than one meter. Finally, meteoroids can be composed of either cometary or asteroidal materials.
+ ASTEROID BELT
The asteroid belt is the circumstellar disc in the Solar System located roughly between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter. It is occupied by numerous irregularly shaped bodies called asteroids or minor planets. The asteroid belt is also termed the main asteroid belt or main belt to distinguish it from other asteroid populations in the Solar System such as near-Earth asteroids and trojan asteroids. About half the mass of the belt is contained in the four largest asteroids: Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea. The total mass of the asteroid belt is approximately 4% that of the Moon, or 22% that of Pluto, and roughly twice that of Pluto's moon Charon (whose diameter is 1200 km).
+ THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COMETS AND ASTEROIDS
The main difference between asteroids and comets is their composition, as in, what they are made of. Asteroids are made up of metals and rocky material; while comets are made up of ice, dust and rocky material. Both asteroids and comets were formed early in the history of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago.
+ WHAT A COMET AND ASTEROID HAS IN COMMON
Asteroids and comets have a few things in common. They are both celestial bodies orbiting our Sun, and they both can have unusual orbits, sometimes straying close to Earth or the other planets. They are both “leftovers” — made from materials from the formation of our Solar System 4.5 billion years ago.
+ FORMATION OF COMETS AND ASTEROIDS
Asteroids are made up of metals and rocky material, while comets are made up of ice, dust and rocky material. Both asteroids and comets were formed early in the history of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago. Asteroids formed much closer to the Sun, where it was too warm for ices to remain solid.
+ WHICH IS BIGGER A COMMET OR AN ASTEROID?
The solid objects themselves are of about equal sizes, but the space containing the gas and dust in the head and tail of a comet is much larger. Comets and asteroids vary greatly in size. There are some asteroids bigger than comets and some comets bigger than asteroids.
+ COMETS THE DIRTY SNOWBALL
Sometimes comets are referred to as “dirty snowballs” or “cosmic snowballs”
+ WHAT SIZE IS A COMET?
The size of a comet changes depending on how close it is to the sun. As a cometgets closer to the sun, the ices on the surface of its nucleus vaporize and form a cloud called a coma around the nucleus that can expand out to 50,000 miles (80,000 km). A tail also forms on a comet as it approaches the sun.
+ RECENT FAMOUS COMETS
Halley's Comet is the most famous of all comets. British astronomer Edmund Halley was the first to realise that comets are periodic, after observing it in 1682 and tallying it to records of two previous comet appearances.
+ ARE THERE ANY ASTEROIDS IN OUR SOLAR SYSTEM
There are currently over 600,000 known asteroids in our solar system.
+ WHAT SIZE ARE ASTEROIDS?
The largest asteroid by far is 1 Ceres. It is 974 km in diameter and contains about 25% of the mass of all the asteroids combined. The next largest are 2 Pallas, 4 Vesta and 10 Hygiea which are between 400 and 525 km in diameter. All other known asteroids are less than 340 km across.