|Where do Comets fit in?|
By now you know a lot about comets: where they come from, what they're made of, what they look like, and why they look that way. But there are other objects in space that are not planets or moons. What do comets have in common with them? How are they different? For example:
Are Comets and Meteors the same thing?
Have you ever seen a shooting star? Shooting
stars are also called meteors,
and we know that they are not stars at all. In fact, they look like
very fast moving comets. A meteor may in fact have once been part of a
As a comet travels near the Sun, developing its coma and dust tail, it can lose several hundred million tons of dust and vapor. The closer it gets to the Sun, the more solids and gases are released. This material remains in orbit about the Sun, and the solid pieces themselves are called meteoroids. A meteoroid becomes a meteor when it falls through the atmosphere, and we see it shoot across the sky.
Meteor Showers: space weather from comets
Are Comets and Asteroids the same thing?
Asteroids are sometimes called minor planets. They are small, rocky worlds. Most of them orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter in what is known as the asteroid belt. Since they are not made of frozen gases like comets, asteroids donít form a coma of bright, heated gas. Since they donít have a coma, they canít form glowing plasma tails or dust tails that reflect light. Asteroids are very difficult to observe, even with a telescope, because they reflect only tiny amounts of sunlight, but they are now being studied using satellites.
This is the end of our comet overview. But wait--do you think really big meteorites, asteroids, or even comets ever hit the earth? What would that be like? Click Continue to go on to "Killer Comets?"