What is the difference between “asteroid”, “comet” and “meteorite”?

Do you know the difference between asteroid, comet and meteorite? Surely you have often heard these words, but… can you really distinguish them from each other?
Do not worry, it is common to confuse them, for now we anticipate that they all refer to interplanetary debris, that is, the remains of the formation of the solar system that remain in space, but there are certain differences between them. We tell you the details below, so keep reading!

What is an asteroid?

Asteroids are rocky objects that revolve around the Sun in unusual orbits. Most of them are located in a region of the solar system known as the “asteroid belt”, which is located between Mars and Jupiter, although they can be found in other locations in the solar system as well. like those that orbit the sun, they are closer to Earth.

In general, these rocky remains are smaller than a planet, maintaining a width ranging from 100 meters to 960 kilometers. Its composition consists of rock and metals, therefore, it can be said that they are ‘space metallic rocks’.

What is a comet?

As we mentioned before, comets also consist of interplanetary debris, or simply remnants, from the formation of the solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago.

Like asteroids, they orbit the sun, but originate in the Kuiper belt of the outer solar system and extend from the orbit of Neptune. As a result, comets spend most of their time farther from the Sun than asteroids, although both can approach in erratic paths.

These space objects, such as asteroids, are considered small compared to the size of planets, and their diameters typically range from a few hundred meters to tens of kilometers.

The main difference that comets have with asteroids is their composition, since these are frozen remains of the formation of the solar system, that is, they are made up of ice, dust and other elements.

Thus, comets are basically cosmic snowballs of frozen gases, rocks, and dust orbiting the Sun.

In fact, due to their composition, when comets approach the Sun, they heat up and the ice (mainly water) sublimates, that is, it changes from a solid to a gaseous state. This gas, which escapes from the comet’s solid nucleus, drags dust particles with it and forms extensive clouds around the comet called hair (or coma), explains the Spanish Astronomical Society.

What is a meteorite?

Meteorites are the remains of meteoroids, the fragments or remains of comets and asteroids that manage to reach the surface of the Earth (or other planets),

When meteoroids are large enough and enter the Earth’s (or another planet’s) atmosphere, they do not burn up or completely disintegrate, but rather survive the chaotic journey and reach the Earth’s (or another planet’s) surface. in a rocky way They come in all shapes and sizes and can cause craters or other impacts.


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