Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Comets and Asteroids

halleys-cometComets vs Asteroids

There is a lot of confusion between two of the more popular heavenly bodies that are found in our solar system. These are the asteroids and the comets. These two are often associated with each other since they are basically the same — small pieces of rock, ice, or both that are not part of any major planet.

Asteroids and Comets are considered as near-earth objects (NEO). Many scientists considered them to be ancient remnants of the formation of our solar system more than 4 billion years ago. They can be visible and there is always a possibility of earth collision but still, the chances are very, very slim.

Both asteroids and comets orbit around the sun. However, comets tend to have an extremely elongated movement around the sun while asteroids have more circular orbits and most of them are found in the asteroid belt where they orbit the sun between the planets Mars and Jupiter.

Since asteroids have much closer orbits, they are easily known and recognized to exist in millions. Comets, on the other hand, are very far making very hard to know and study them. As of 2008, there are only 3,572 known comets. It is believed that comets originated from a hypothesized belt of orbiting material called the ‘Oort Cloud’. Asteroids, although can be found anywhere, they are mostly concentrated on the asteroid belt.

Comets are made up mostly of frozen gases and mass of dust. The surface is icy and as comet approaches the sun, the ice vaporizes. That make-up distinguishes comets from asteroids because asteroids, on the other hand, are made up of rocky and metallic material. Asteroids are warmer since they are much closer to the sun.

Comets have a distinct characteristic of forming a visible coma and at times, a long tail of ions pointing opposite the sun which asteroid doesnít have. This is because of the cometís icy surface but far away from the sun, it is hard to distinguish a comet from an asteroid.

Summary:
1.  Asteroids have smaller and circular orbits as compared to cometsí elongated orbits.
2. Asteroids are made up of rocks and metals while comets are basically frozen gas and dust.
3. Asteroids are warmer since they are located nearer the sun while comets are icy cold and only lose material as they near the sun.
4. Comets form a distinctive coma and tail when near the sun while asteroids do not.
5. Many more asteroids are known than comets.
6. Asteroids are mostly found in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter while Comets are hypothesized to be concentrated in an orbiting belt very far away from the sun.


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