Space is filled with the tiny remnants of asteroids and comets. Often, these rocky bodies collide with other rocky objects, causing them to break apart. However, they can also fall apart as they are pulled in different directions by tidal forces. This occurs when the rocks fly close to a large object that has a significant gravitational pull.Continue Reading
According to the University of Northern Iowa, a comet passing near Jupiter broke into several pieces and struck the giant planet. Named "Shoemaker-Levy 9," the comet finally crashed into Jupiter in 1993, causing explosions that were visible from Earth. However, the comet actually broke into multiple pieces on a previous trip around the solar system in which it passed close by to Jupiter.
Fortunately for the inhabitants of Earth, such stellar collisions are relatively rare. According to the University of Northern Iowa, impacts such as the Shoemaker-Levy 9 impact occur only about once in a person’s lifetime. Most scientists expect the Earth to be hit by a comet or meteor at some point in the future, and the only question is when the impact is going to occur.
Scientists suspect that comets are the source of the Earth’s water, according to NASA. Comets are largely composed of rock and ice, but when they crashed into the Earth, the ice melted and helped to fill the ocean basins of the planet.Learn more about Comets & Asteroids