Comets, asteroids, meteors and meteorites-what’s the difference?

Comets, asteroids, meteors and meteorites-what’s the difference?

The Solar System is a bound system by the gravitational force comprising the Sun and the objects that orbit around Sun, either directly or indirectly. Of those objects that orbit the Sun directly, the largest nine are the planets( Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Pluto) , with the remaining being significantly smaller objects, such as dwarf planets and bodies. The Solar System also contains smaller objects such as asteroids, comets, minor planets, and many other. Comets and asteroids are also called as Near-Earth Objects as they have been held by the gravitational force of nearby planets into orbits which also allow them to enter the Earth's neighborhood. They are mainly composed of water with embedded dust particles. Comets are originally formed in the cold planetary system in the outer region while asteroids are formed in comparatively warmer inner region of solar system situated between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

There is no clear difference between an asteroid and a meteoroid. A bigger one is usually referred to as an asteroid, while smaller version of the same is called a meteoroid. The major differences on which these can be differentiated are on whether it's big enough to survive a trip through the Earth's and arrive on the Earth's surface as a meteorites, but the same also depends on their composition, speed, and trajectory. In addition, it is also dependent on towards which planet it's heading. The major similarity between both comets and asteroids is that they both orbit around the Sun, and are adequately far away from the Earth. In addition, Meteors also start their journey in orbit around the Sun, but they are quite small and cannot be seen until they enter in the Earth's atmosphere. They move much faster than Earth, which formulates their temperature higher, that is the reason that we recognize them as quickly moving streak of light across the sky. A meteor obtains at the most a second or two to cross the sky, whereas a comet or asteroid obtains weeks or months to cross the same.Although there is blurry line between Comets, asteroids, meteors, and meteorites but the details of differences are as follows:

Comet:- A comet is a smaller body inthe solar system that orbits the Sun. When close enough to the Sun they seem like a visible coma (a faded outline or atmosphere as a result ofstar radiation) which is generally a tail. By composition, it is a mass of frozen gases, cosmic dust, and crystals of ice. They are alsocalled dirty icebergs. They surround the Sun in long and narrow orbitmainly located in the cold. They orbit the Sun in the Kuiper Belt, which begins just after Neptune. A trillion or more comets could live even farther out ina chillyspacereferred to as the "Oort Cloud." Some comets leave their orbits within the Kuiper Belt or the Oortcloud and start their journey toward the Sun. When a comet orbits around the Sun, its ice begins evaporates. As it vaporizes, a tail of glowing gases and dust forms behind it which always points in opposite direction of the Sun. If Earth passes through cometdust, burning particles look like streaking through the sky in a spectacular display and is called "meteor shower." 

Asteroids:- Asteroids are metallic and rock like objects found in space comprising of inorganic matter. Asteroids are similar to comets, but they lack visible coma (fuzzy outline and tail) like comets. They are basically without atmospheres and move in independent orbits around the Sun. Thousands of asteroids are found in an area calledthe asteroid belt-a vast, doughnut-shaped circle between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Some scientist's theories that asteroids are be pieces of a planet that never formed. The variation in the size of asteroids is quite large ranging from large to smaller sizes comparable to a grain of sand.

Meteors- Meteor is also often called as a shooting star. A meteor is the flash of light that we see in the night sky when a small chunk of debris burns up as it passes through the atmosphere.

Meteorites:- Meteoroids are pieces of rocks and metals displacedfrom comets, planets, asteroids or moons. Most meteoroids are made up of very small dust-sized particles. When a meteoroid enters into the atmosphere of any planet, it burns up due to frictional force. As it burns, a meteoroid forms a brilliant streak of light which is called a meteor.




 An asteroid is an irregular, rocky fragment which in sizeranges from a few meters up to thousand kilometers.

Comet's nucleus size is  up to 20 kilometers in diameter and it is surrounded by gas (two tails made of  one gas  and other of  dust, which are millions of kilometers long)

Meteorite is an irregular and rock-like particle which varies from a few centimeters up to a few meters in diameter

It is made up of carbon containing rocks containing carbon in addition to iron and other metal

It is formed of Ice, rock like material, ammonia and other gases

It is made from rock or iron  or a combination of both


It is originated from remains from formation of solar system

It is formed from leftover matter from formation of solar system

Meteorites are generally broken pieces of asteroids

They are mostly found between orbit of Mars and Jupiter which is also called as Asteroid belt.

They enter the solar system from the deep space and orbits near sun and then move far out into the space again

If the broken pieces of asteroid enters Earth's atmosphere and hit the ground, they are meteorites


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