Difference Between Asteroid and Comet

By: | Updated: Apr-20, 2022
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Many space enthusiasts are probably familiar with the difference between an asteroid and a comet. But many people are still confused about these two terms. In this article, we will discuss the difference between an asteroid and a comet.

An asteroid is a small celestial body which orbits around the Sun. Asteroids are very large in size compared to the Earth and Moon. Some asteroids are as big as mountains while some are as small as pebbles.

Asteroid Comet
A small celestial body which orbits around the Sun. Small icy bodies that orbit the Sun in highly elliptical orbits.
Solid objects. Has no solid surface.

 

Difference Between Asteroid and Comet

Asteroids move in elliptical orbits around the Sun, while comets move in orbits that are sometimes more eccentric than those of planets such as Jupiter or Saturn. Some asteroids are captured by other planets when they pass close to them; others leave their parent bodies after they have been perturbed by other forces (e.g., gravitational perturbation).

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Most asteroids follow highly elliptical orbits around the Sun; only a few thousand have orbital periods of less than one year. Asteroids are distinguished from comets by their different appearance and different orbit characteristics, but because of their similar origin and composition, both groups of objects can be referred to collectively as “asteroids” for convenience (or “asteroïds” for short).

Asteroids are distinguished from comets by their different appearance and different orbit characteristics, but because of their similar origin and composition, both groups of objects can be referred to collectively as “asteroids” for convenience (or “asteroïds” for short).

Comets are small icy bodies that orbit the Sun in highly elliptical orbits. Comets can range in size from a few meters to tens of kilometers across. The smallest observed comet has a nucleus about 10 km across, while the largest comet nucleus has a diameter of more than 100 km.

However, comets have no solid surface and no exposed solid core. Instead, they consist mostly of frozen gasses, dust and rock. Because comets originate from the Kuiper belt beyond Neptune, they often have orbits that take them as far as several hundred AU (astronomical units) from the Sun. It is thought that only a small fraction of all asteroids may be comets; however this is still debated among astronomers.

Conclusion

It is important to understand the difference between an asteroid and a comet. As you can see, they are both celestial bodies orbiting around the Sun. However, they are different in appearance and characteristics. Comets are mostly made of ice and rock while asteroids are mostly made of stone.

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