Comets & Asteroids

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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 difference between a comet and a meteor?

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

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    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 cosmic rays?

    Q:What are cosmic rays?

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    Cosmic rays are fast-moving elementary particles, such as protons, electrons and atomic nuclei, that strike the Earth from outer space. They travel almost at the speed of light. Scientists believe they originate from supernovas, black holes and quasars.

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  • Where do meteors come from?

    Q:Where do meteors come from?

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    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 is the most famous comet?

    Q:What is the most famous comet?

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    The comet people are most likely to know by name, and therefore perhaps the most famous, is Halley's Comet. This comet can be seen from Earth's about every 75 years, with its next predicted return in 2061.

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  • How do you watch the Draconid meteor shower?

    Q:How do you watch the Draconid meteor shower?

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    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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  • What is the speed of an asteroid?

    Q:What is the speed of an asteroid?

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    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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  • Why do we see stars at night?

    Q:Why do we see stars at night?

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    Though stars are shining in the sky at all times, they are not visible during the day because the sun's brightness overpowers the dimmer stars. At night, without interference from the sun's rays, the other stars become visible.

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  • How are asteroids formed?

    Q:How are asteroids formed?

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    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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  • How fast do asteroids move?

    Q:How fast do asteroids move?

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    According to Yury Zaitsev, at Space Daily, an asteroid has a speed of about 55,923 miles per hour on average. Potential asteroid impacts on Earth have become a concern in recent years, with scientists suggesting the monitoring of all space objects in close proximity to the Earth.

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  • Why do meteors burn up in the mesosphere?

    Q:Why do meteors burn up in the mesosphere?

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    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 meteors formed?

    Q:How are meteors formed?

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    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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  • How often do shooting stars occur?

    Q:How often do shooting stars occur?

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    Meteors falling through the atmosphere, called shooting stars, occur regularly and are seen on any clear night every 10 to 15 minutes. Shooting stars occur reliably and in large numbers during the meteor showers that occur yearly based on the passage of particular comets or minor planets close to Earth.

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  • How do meteors from Mars arrive on Earth?

    Q:How do meteors from Mars arrive on Earth?

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    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 fast does a comet travel?

    Q:How fast does a comet travel?

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    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 are some famous asteroids?

    Q:What are some famous asteroids?

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    Dozens of asteroids orbit throughout the galaxy, but the most famous are those that have impacted the Earth. Asteroids that do are best known by the major craters they leave behind. The Vredefort crater was created by an asteroid nearly two billion years ago in South Africa. The crater has a radius of 118 miles and is believed to be the largest asteroid crater.

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  • How does a comet begin and end?

    Q:How does a comet begin and end?

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    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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  • What is an asteroid belt?

    Q:What is an asteroid belt?

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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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  • What are some facts on mining asteroids?

    Q:What are some facts on mining asteroids?

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    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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  • What is the definition of a meteor?

    Q:What is the definition of a meteor?

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    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 is the size of Halley's comet?

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

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    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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