NASA near-Earth asteroid expert Dr. Ryan Park explains the difference between an Asteroids and Comets.
Do you know the difference between Asteroids and Comets? Though an asteroid and comet are all celestial objects that may seem similar, there is actually quite a bit of difference between them.
According to NASA’s near-Earth asteroid expert Dr. Ryan Park, these are planetary objects which revolve around the Sun.
What is an Asteroid?
Dr. Park says, “An asteroid is a small, rocky object and when seen in a telescope, it appears as a point of light. Most asteroids are found in a ring between the orbit of Mars and Jupiter called the asteroid belt.”
Asteroids have several shapes, they may be spherical, elongated, or oddly shaped. Some asteroids even have their own satellites! Isn’t that amazing?
What is a Comet?
Well, according to Dr. Park, “A comet also orbits the Sun, but unlike an asteroid, it’s composed of ice and dust. So, when a comet gets close to the Sun, its ice and dust content start to vaporize. So, when seen in a telescope, a comet appears fuzzy and/or has a tail.”
To sum it up, “Well, asteroids are rocky, and comets are icy.” Dr. Park said.
In fact, a comet is currently in the news as it heads towards the Earth. NASA found a comet, which can be anything between 30 to 160 kilometers wide, approaching the Earth. Spotted first in 2017, Comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS) is coming all the way from the Oort cloud to visit the Earth. The comet was discovered by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (PanSTARRS) observatory and thus its name. However, it is also known as the K2 comet in short. Traveling from the outer edges of the solar system, this comet is scheduled to arrive at the closest point to the Earth on July 14.