Comets, asteroids, and meteors are all astronomical bodies that orbit the Sun. How do they differ from each other? Let’s find out.
Comets vs asteroids vs meteors
Comets are small, icy astronomical bodies that orbit around the Sun in highly elliptical orbits. The duration of one revolution around the Sun for comets varies greatly. Some comets have an orbital period of thousands of years while some take only a few years to complete one revolution.
Comets when they reach close to the Sun, release gases and dust. A hazy envelope known as a coma is formed around the nucleus of the comet. A tail of dust and gases is also formed that stretches for millions of kilometers.
Asteroids are astronomical bodies also known as ‘minor planets’ or ‘planetoids’. Most asteroids are found in the torus-shaped region known as the Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids are irregular-shaped, rocky bodies. The largest asteroid is Vesta (4 Vesta) which is more than 500 kilometers wide. The smallest asteroids are just a few kilometers wide.
The combined mass of all the asteroids in the solar system is less than the mass of the Earth’s moon. Over a million asteroids are identified to this date by our space agencies.
Meteoroids are small rocks in the solar system. These small rocks are formed when asteroids collide with each other.
When a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it starts to burn. The burning meteoroid is seen as when we call a ‘shooting star’ or a ‘meteor’.
If a meteor does not burn completely and reaches the Earth’s surface, it is known as a meteorite. Every day a few meteorites are able to reach the surface.
|Astronomical body||brief description||also known as|
|Comet||made of ice, dust, and rock||also known as ‘dirty snowball’|
|Asteroid||made of rocks and metals||also known as ‘minor planet’ or ‘planetoid’|
|Meteoroid||small rocks formed when asteroids collide|
|Meteor||A meteoroid that enters the Earth’s atmosphere||also known as ‘shooting star’|
|Meteorite||A meteor that reaches the Earth’s surface|