Comets & Asteroids

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The asteroid belt is a region of the solar system between Mars and Jupiter where the majority of the asteroids in the solar system are found. Millions of asteroids are believed to be located in this region.

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  • How fast does a comet travel?

    Q: How fast does a comet travel?

    A: Comets travel between 26 miles per second and 298 miles per second. The speed depends on two factors: the shape of its orbit and its proximity to the Sun at a particular point in time.
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  • What is an asteroid belt?

    Q: What is an asteroid belt?

    A: The asteroid belt is a region of the solar system between Mars and Jupiter where the majority of the asteroids in the solar system are found. Millions of asteroids are believed to be located in this region.
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  • What is the speed of an asteroid?

    Q: What is the speed of an asteroid?

    A: The average speed of an asteroid is 25 kilometers per second. Depending upon the size and velocity of an asteroid, a collision with Earth could have catastrophic effects.
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  • Who discovered the first and largest asteroid?

    Q: Who discovered the first and largest asteroid?

    A: Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the first and largest asteroid, Ceres, on Jan. 1, 1801, while mapping stars. He found it orbiting in an area between Mars and Jupiter. Measuring 583 miles across, this almost spherical asteroid contains about one-fourth of the mass of all known asteroids.
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  • When is the next asteroid predicted to hit Earth?

    Q: When is the next asteroid predicted to hit Earth?

    A: Ukrainian scientists discovered a large asteroid in late 2013 that could possibly strike the Earth on Aug. 26, 2032. If such a collision occurred, it would strike with a force 50 times greater than the largest atomic bomb.
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  • What is the difference between a comet and a meteor?

    Q: What is the difference between a comet and a meteor?

    A: A comet is a frozen collection of rocks, gases and dust that orbits around the sun, while a meteor is a piece of debris that comes into contact with a planet's atmosphere. Before it collides with a planet, a meteor is called a meteoroid.
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  • What are the recent comet sightings?

    Q: What are the recent comet sightings?

    A: Recent sightings of great comets, or comets bright enough to be seen without the aid of special equipment, are Comet Lovejoy in 2011, Comet McNaught in 2007, Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997, Comet Hyakutake in 1996, Comet West in 1976, Comet Ikeya-Seki in 1965, Comet Skjellerup-Maristany in 1927 and Halley's Comet in 1910. Numerous comets too dim to be seen by anyone but astronomers regularly pass through the solar system.
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  • When will Halley's Comet be returning?

    Q: When will Halley's Comet be returning?

    A: Scientists predict that Halley's Comet, also known as Comet Halley, will make an appearance again in late 2061, early 2062. It was last seen in the sky in 1986.
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  • What is the size of Halley's comet?

    Q: What is the size of Halley's comet?

    A: Halley's comet has a mean diameter of 11 kilometers across. On average, it passes by Earth between every 75 to 76 years. In 1910, Halley's comet came as close as 13.9 million miles.
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  • Why do meteors burn up in the mesosphere?

    Q: Why do meteors burn up in the mesosphere?

    A: Meteors burn up in the mesosphere when they encounter the molecules from that layer and rub up against them. This generates heat; ironically, the mesosphere is the coldest part of the atmosphere.
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  • How are asteroids formed?

    Q: How are asteroids formed?

    A: Asteroids are formed from the leftovers of the formation of our solar system from about 4.6 billion years ago. Early on, the birth of Jupiter prevented any planetary bodies from forming in the gap between Mars and Jupiter, causing the small objects that were there to collide with each other and fragment into the asteroids seen today.
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  • What is the definition of a meteor?

    Q: What is the definition of a meteor?

    A: A meteor is defined as a piece of material that passes through Earth’s atmosphere. While it is traveling through space and before it enters the atmosphere, a meteor is called a meteoroid.
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  • What are some facts on mining asteroids?

    Q: What are some facts on mining asteroids?

    A: Mankind has dreamed of mining asteroids ever since the 19th century sci-fi serial "Edison's Conquest of Mars," but it has only come within scientific reach very recently. Asteroids are rich in metals found only in scarce quantities on Earth. If scientists figure out a way to tow an asteroid into the orbit of the moon, they can effectively harvest millions of dollars worth of minerals from even relatively small asteroids.
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  • How are meteors formed?

    Q: How are meteors formed?

    A: Most meteors that enter the Earth's atmosphere are pieces of asteroids from the asteroid belt. The meteors were formed more than 4 billion years ago during what is thought to be the early stages of the solar system.
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  • What causes a green shooting star?

    Q: What causes a green shooting star?

    A: The bright green color of some meteorites is caused by the internal combustion of metals as they pass through the upper atmosphere. Many asteroids are rich in nickel and have trace amounts of copper. Both metals burn green when sufficiently heated.
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  • How are comets made?

    Q: How are comets made?

    A: Comets are made up of collections of ice, dust and rocky particles that are leftover from the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. Comets range in length from a few kilometers to tens of kilometers. The nuclei are comprised of frozen gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane and ammonia.
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  • Where do meteors come from?

    Q: Where do meteors come from?

    A: According to the Center for Meteorite Studies at the Arizona State University, meteorites are believed to come from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Hubblesite defines a meteorite as a meteor or a piece of meteor that makes it through the atmosphere and lands on earth.
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  • What year did Edmond Halley discover Halley's Comet?

    Q: What year did Edmond Halley discover Halley's Comet?

    A: Edmond Halley was not the first scientist to observe Halley's Comet, but he discovered that recorded comet sightings in 1531, 1607 and 1682 were part of a recurring orbital cycle, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. He published his findings in 1705 and correctly predicted the comet's next appearance in 1758.
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  • How does a comet begin and end?

    Q: How does a comet begin and end?

    A: Comets begin as a mixture of ice and dust and end up losing their ice and gases each time they orbit around the sun. They come from the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud. After around 500 passes, they lose most of their ice and gas content and eventually turn into something close to an asteroid.
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  • How do meteors from Mars arrive on Earth?

    Q: How do meteors from Mars arrive on Earth?

    A: Meteors from Mars arrive on Earth as the result of impacts on the planet by other bodies, which launch material out into space. Some of this debris is pulled in by the gravity of the Earth, falling as Martian meteorites.
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  • How do you watch the Draconid meteor shower?

    Q: How do you watch the Draconid meteor shower?

    A: Unlike other meteor showers, the Draconid meteor shower is not confined to a specific area of the sky, so the best way to watch them is to find a location away from the lights of the city, lie back on a blanket, and prepare to spend at least two hours gazing at the sky. When sky-gazing for the Draconid meteors it's best to point your feet in a north-to-northwest direction.
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