Group 7 Comets And Asteroids

Though too small to earn the distinction of planet, asteroids and comets strike huge fear in the human mind. And for good reason: at some point in the future, one of the chunky rocks or icy mud balls will slam into Earth and alter the course of history. Such an impact 65 million years ago is widely believed to have killed off the dinosaurs.

Asteroids and comets are considered remnants from the giant cloud of gas and dust that condensed to create the sun, planets, and moons some 4.5 billion years ago. Today, most asteroids orbit the sun in a tightly packed belt located between Mars and Jupiter. Comets are relegated to either a cloud or belt on the solar system fringe. Gravitational tugs, orbital collisions, and interstellar jostles occasionally perturb an asteroid or comet onto a wayward path

The distinction between asteroids and comets is fuzzy—comets tend to have more chemical compounds that vaporize when heated, such as water, and more elliptical (egg-shaped) orbits than asteroids do. And when observed through a telescope, comets appear fuzzier.

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