Comets, Asteroids and Meteors

Flying space rocks in the sky can be difficult to spot in the modern illuminations. But despite the business of life has taken us away from the spectacles of the night sky, they wander around, waiting to be seen. We can thank God for the existence but the deeper we look into it, the more we rediscover the trivial nature of us.

Despite looking up in the night sky seeing a shooting star pass by, it’s not what it seems. Because the shooting star could be one of three main objects: Comets Meteor or Asteroid. What are they? How are they formed?

Formation of Asteroids and Comets

The answer to the latter is quite a messy soupy one and dates back 5 billion years. Yes, that is billion with a big fat “B”. As a giant space cloud condensed to form our sun and the rest of the solar system, the chunks of matter that solidified but couldn’t be made into something bigger turned into smaller objects and just remained there trapped in the sun’s gravity. Those objects came to be known as comets and asteroids.

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Omuamua, Asteroid from interstellar space

Difference Between Them

What makes each different? Well, that will be explained below.

Meteors

You may have noticed the lack of existence of meteors in the above story. While it may be alarming, it is simply because meteors were chunks that actually became part of something bigger.
Meteors are the broken chunks of planets or moons. They can even whole asteroids that get launched into space and find themselves unlucky enough to burn out in a flash in our atmosphere.
They appear as bright flashes going through the night sky because they burn up due to friction from the atmosphere.

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Meteor in the night sky

Comets

Comets are the space equivalent of snowballs which lay in the outskirts of the solar system, they’re chunks of ice, dust, and rocks. They rest in the outer solar system, beyond the orbit of Neptune in the Kuiper belt. They have extremely stretched orbits and every so often, they get tugged in by the sun’s gravity.
While the comet descends and gets nearer to the sun, the heat from it warms the surface of the comet and thaws the material out forming a tail. The gas and dust break up and stream behind the comet. Which makes it look like it has a big hairy tail. Which is what ancient astronomers thought of them as; hairy stars.

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Comet Rosetta

Asteroids

Finally, coming to asteroids, they reside between the planets Mars and Jupiter in an area dedicated to them, called the asteroid belt. Even though they look like comets, they don’t have fuzzy outlines or tails (!) and look more like planets and can even have their own moon!
They are broken pieces of unfinished planets and there is a theory that they may actually be the leftover remains of one that resided in the region.
They are big chunks of rock and metal that often crash into each other. Sometimes, they even crash into planets.

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Asteroids in the asteroid belt in the solar system

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