Astronomy

Can the Sun pull an iron asteriods in it's orbit into it?

Can the Sun pull an iron asteriods in it's orbit into it?

Can our Sun's magnetic field strengthen in any way in a short period? Can the Sun pull anything trapped in close orbit around it? What would happen if an object in orbit passes over a sunspot for example?


Can our Sun's magnetic field be able to pull anything out of orbit closer than Mercury if it passes over a sunspot for example?

Almost nothing orbits as close as sunspots. Sunspots are impressively large. Large enough that the Earth can pass through a sunspot. The larger ones approach the size of Jupiter, but that's still just 1/10th the diameter of the Sun. When sunspots lead to coronal mass ejections, the ejected material and the height of the storm, prior to ejection can reach higher, but the majority of sunspots extend only a fraction of 1 solar radius from the Sun's surface. That's insanely close for an orbit.

Can our Sun's magnetic field be able to pull anything out of orbit closer than Mercury if it passes over a sunspot for example?

There's three problems with this. The first problem is that the Sun's magnetic field at any reasonable distance, becomes mostly insignificant. Sunspots are local, twisted magnetic fields with little effect at high distance. Their negative and positive poles are on the surface of the sun and from Mercury distance, very close to one another. Perhaps 10 or 20 arc-minutes apart at maximum, a fraction of 1 degree. Any magnetic force at that distance would be negligible.

Another problem is that the Sun is a much more powerful gravity machine than it is a magnet. By the time you get close enough for the Sun's magnetism to have significant effect, the Sun would fill half the sky. It would be a bad day being that close to the sun. Asteroids would be vaporizing under the immense radiation. Free ions would be affected by magnetism, but the overall object would be more affected by gravity and heat from radiation.

A 3rd problem is that nearly everything in space is a weak magnet. Even Jupiter, by mass, is a relatively weak magnet. Asteroids and comets may have some natural magnetism to them, but not a lot. Planets may induce a magnetic field, but relative to their mass, it's usually insignificant. The magnetic interaction between stellar objects isn't very significant.

However, for charged particles, it's very significant and many of the particles that fly through space are charged. A charge particle is considerably affected by magnetic fields, but anything of any size, much less so.

Now, just for fun, if we were to send some neodymium magnets orbiting the sun inside the orbit of Mercury… well, the heat might destroy the magnets, but lets ignore that for now. Would those theoretical, artificial magnetic satellites indicate bumps in their orbit when they flew over a sunspot? Perhaps. I think at mercury distance the effects would be pretty small.

The size of the sunspot created orbital bumps would be dependent on the strength of the magnet relative to it's mass, so Neodymium magnet satellites would be a good choice to measure sunspot driven bumps in their orbits. I can't run the math for you, but if you pick a magnet with a magnetism and a mass and an orbital distance and you define the size and power of the sunspot, maybe someone here could calculate the effect. I still think it'd be pretty tiny. When you talk about meteors, which would either be non-magnetic or weak magnets, the effect would probably be minuscule.


Can the Sun pull an iron asteriods in it's orbit into it? - Astronomy

Asteroid Vesta [image: NASA's Vesta mission via Falling star.com]

Asteroids used to annoy astronomers by making streaks in their photos that hid the more interesting things. But now asteroids are the interesting things. Here is their story.

The first asteroid was discovered on New Year's Day in 1801.
Giuseppe Piazzi discovered Ceres between Mars and Jupiter. Astronomers thought there was a "missing planet" there and assumed Piazzi had found it. The four biggest asteroids were often called planets until nearly the end of the 19th century.

Asteroids have also been called planetoids, minor planets and small solar system bodies.
When Pallas was discovered the year after Ceres, William Herschel thought it odd that two planets were in similar orbits. And through a telescope they looked more like stars than planets. Herschel thought they weren't planets, but were a new type of object. He suggested the name "asteroid" (starlike) for them. In 2006 the International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially classified Ceres as a dwarf planet and the other asteroids as small Solar System bodies.

Asteroids are some of the leftovers from making the Solar System.
Astronomers think the planets formed by accretion. Accretion is material clumping together into bigger and bigger objects. In the space between Jupiter and Mars, accretion began, but the material didn't hold together as a planet. Jupiter's gravity kept breaking it up, creating the asteroid belt. The asteroids are now interesting to astronomers because they contain material unchanged from the early Solar System.

There are more than a quarter of a million known asteroids and over 12,000 of them have names.
Ceres is the biggest asteroid – and also the smallest dwarf planet. It's only 940 km (580 miles) in diameter. Most of the asteroids are much smaller. There could be billions of the smallest ones. But even if you could collect all the material in the asteroid belt, it wouldn't make much of a planet. You'd need 25 asteroid belts to make something as big as the Moon.

The asteroid belt isn't really as crowded as it seems.
A diagram of the inner Solar System shows that there are lots of asteroids, but that makes it look crowded. In fact, the belt is more than 1 AU across. An AU – astronomical unit – is the distance from the Earth to the Sun, 150 million km (93 million miles). There is lots of room for all those rocks.

Except for Ceres, the asteroids are all sorts of shapes.
Ceres is listed as a dwarf planet because it has enough mass for gravity to pull it into the shape of a ball. You can see what some of the others look like in this collection of asteroid pictures.

Almost all asteroids are made of rock, but about 5% are metallic – iron and nickel.
The meteorites on Earth have mostly come from the asteroid belt. The iron meteorites were highly prized by ancient peoples who didn't have the technology to get iron from iron ore.

There are asteroids outside the asteroid belt.
We are very interested in the asteroids that cross Earth's orbit. They're called Near Earth Objects (NEO). More than 600 of these are also classified as Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHA). The Minor Planet Center of the International Astronomical Union keeps a close watch on these, and there are other projects searching for new ones. Unfortunately, we don't yet know what to do if we find one. Millions of years ago an asteroid hitting Earth may have caused the dinosaurs to die out.

NASA's Dawn mission visited the asteroid belt.
From July 2011 to August 2012 Dawn studied the asteroid Vesta, and then went on to orbit Ceres. The mission finished in November 2018.

The person who discovers an asteroid usually gets to name it, as long as it doesn't break the rules of the Minor Planet Center.
The first asteroids were named for goddesses. But by now the list includes the names of the discoverers and their families, of scientists, writers, artists, movie stars and many more. The names can't be duplicates, offensive, or of living political or military figures.

The youngest person to discover an asteroid was Luigi Sannino in Italy.
In September 1999, 18-year-old Sannino was observing with P. Pietrapiana at the Monte Viseggi Observatory when they found the asteroid which was later named Palmaria.

Content copyright © 2021 by Mona Evans. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Mona Evans. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Mona Evans for details.


Asteroids

There is an area in space called the asteroid belt. This belt exists between Mars and Jupiter. Here is where millions of asteroids are found. The asteroid belt has an elliptical path, moving in the same direction as the planets.

The first asteroid was discovered in 1801 it is called Ceres. It is also the largest. Its circumference is about 960 kilometers. Like a planet, Ceres orbits around the sun. It takes 4.6 Earth years to make one orbit.

Not all asteroids are this large, however. Some are only a few hundred meters wide. Scientists think they are “junk” left over from the formation of the solar system.

Sometimes an asteroid is pulled out of its orbit. The gravitational pull of a planet or other larger object can attract it. Sometimes an asteroid crashes into a planet. This causes a crater.

We can thank Jupiter for protecting us against constant bombardment by asteroids. The Sun’s gravity pulls the asteroids toward the inner planets. But the asteroid belt is closer to Jupiter. Jupiter’s gravitational pull attracts the asteroids away from Earth. It also protects Mercury, Venus, and Mars.

Impacts are not totally impossible, however. Scientists believe that the asteroid 1950 DA will pass close to Earth. This is the greatest chance of asteroid collision for our planet. But you don’t need to worry scientists predict it will not even come close until the year 2880!

There have been space missions to both asteroids and comets. Scientists study them to get clues about how Earth evolved. For example, some believe that the impact of an asteroid caused a chain of events that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs here on Earth. Impacts from comets may have brought water to our planet. Scientists believe that these space rocks can tell us a lot about the formation of our solar system.


  • Parents were hot enough to differentiate into silicate mantles & iron cores.
  • Got shattered by collisions into smaller pieces
  • Bigger shattered objects may be the progenitors of the Hirayama families of asteroids.
  • Some originate in the main asteroid belt.
  • Those making meteor showers are trails of debris left behind by passing comets.
  • Rare meteors have been found that have been knocked off the Moon or Mars.

Meteorites are among the oldest rocks in the solar system (radioactive ages of 4.6 Gyr), and are thus the leftovers from the formation of the solar system.


What is a comet?

The Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt seem to be the birthplace of comets, therefore it is important to learn what these small bodies called comets are. A comet is a ball of ice and gas mixed with dust and rock that orbits the Sun. They date back to when the solar system was formed. Comets are often called “dirty snowballs” because they consist of a mixture of ice, rock and dust fragments.

A solid surface made of ice, rock and dust forms the nucleus of a comet. Tactile 2 details the nucleus of a comet discovered in 1969 called Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The nucleus has two distinct lobes suggesting it may be the result of the collision of 2 comets in the past again highlighting the dynamic nature of small bodies! The “mountains” on the right edge of the nucleus are 100’s of meters high. Note also the outgassing occurring near the upper center of the core. As a comet is “pulled” into the inner solar system by the gravity of the Sun, the solar radiation pressure and increased temperature cause the material in the nucleus to vaporize, releasing gas and dust formerly frozen in the nucleus. When that happens, those on Earth are sometimes able to see the coma and the tail as detailed in Tactile 3. The coma is simply the gas and dust illuminated by the Sun directly surrounding the nucleus. On this tactile, the nucleus is found as a raised area towards the bottom of the coma and is labled to the left and probably has similar structures to the one explored on Tactile 2. The nucleus is, however, much much smaller than the coma or other features of a comet. Because of the outward radiating pressure from the Sun called solar wind, some of the material in the coma is “blown” away from the comet forming the tail. Here is where an interesting twist enters the story: The dust and gas are affected differently by the solar radiation. The more dense and massive dust is less affected by the solar radiation and retains more of a curved path due to the orbiting nucleus. The less dense gas is easily carried away from the nucleus and thus trails straight out away from the nucleus pointing directly away from the Sun. This is illustrated in Tactile 3 which shows the anatomy of a comet as it nears our Sun.


Three New 'Trojan' Asteroids Found Sharing Neptune's Orbit

Three new objects locked into roughly the same orbit as Neptune--called "Trojan" asteroids--have been found by researchers from the Carnegie Institution's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism (DTM) and the Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii. The discovery offers evidence that Neptune, much like its big cousin Jupiter, hosts thick clouds of Trojans in its orbit, and that these asteroids probably share a common source. It also brings the total of known Neptune Trojans to four.

"It is exciting to have quadrupled the known population of Neptune Trojans," said Carnegie Hubble Fellow Scott Sheppard, lead author of the study, which appears in the June 15 online issue of Science Express. "In the process, we have learned a lot both about how these asteroids become locked into their stable orbits, as well as what they might be made of, which makes the discovery especially rewarding."

The recently discovered Neptune Trojans are only the fourth stable group of asteroids observed around the Sun. The others are the Kuiper Belt just beyond Neptune, the Jupiter Trojans, and the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Evidence suggests that the Neptune Trojans are more numerous than either the main asteroid belt or the Jupiter Trojans, but they are hard to observe because they are so far away from the Sun. Astronomers therefore require the largest telescopes in the world equipped with sensitive digital cameras to detect them.

Trojan asteroids cluster around one of two points that lead or trail the planet by about 60 degrees in its orbit, known as Lagrangian points. In these areas, the gravitational pull of the planet and the Sun combine to lock the asteroids into stable orbits synchronized with the planet. German Astronomer Max Wolf identified the first Jupiter Trojan in 1906, and since then, more than 1800 such asteroids have been identified marching along that planet's orbit. Because Trojan asteroids share a planet's orbit, they can help astronomers understand how planets form, and how the solar system evolved.

Researchers theorized that Trojans might also flank other planets, but evidence for this has surfaced only recently. In 2001, the first Neptune Trojan was spotted in the planet's leading Lagrangian point. In 2004, Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory, who is also an author on the current study, found the second Neptune Trojan using Carnegie's Magellan-Baade 6.5 meter telescope in Las Campanas, Chile. They found two more in 2005, bringing the total to four, and observed them again using the 8.2 meter Gemini Telescope in Hawaii in order to accurately determine their orbits. All four of the known Neptune Trojans reside in the planet's leading Lagrangian point.

One of the new Trojans has an orbit that is more steeply tilted to the plane of the solar system than the other three. Although only this one has such a steep orbit, the methods used to observe the asteroids are not sensitive to objects so far out of tilt with the rest of the solar system. The very existence of this Trojan suggests that there are many more like it, and that Neptune's Trojans as a whole occupy thick clouds with complex, interlaced orbits.

"We were really surprised to find a Neptune Trojan with such a large orbital inclination," Trujillo said. "The discovery of the one tilted Neptune Trojan implies that there may be many more far from the solar system plane than near the plane, and that the Trojans are really a "cloud" or "swarm" of objects co-orbiting with Neptune."

A large population of high-inclination Neptune Trojans would rule out the possibility that they are left over from early in the solar system's history, since unaltered primordial asteroid groups should be closely aligned with the plane of the solar system. These clouds probably formed much like Jupiter's Trojan clouds did: once the giant planets settled into their paths around the Sun, any asteroid that happened to be in the Trojan region "froze" into its orbit.

Sheppard and Trujillo also compared, for the first time, the colors of all four known Neptune Trojans. They are all about the same shade of pale red, suggesting that they share a similar origin and history. Though it is hard to tell for sure with only four on the books, the researchers believe that the Neptune Trojans might share a common origin with the Jupiter Trojans and outer irregular satellites of the giant planets. These objects might be the last remnants of the countless small bodies that formed in the giant planet region, most of which eventually became part of the planets or were tossed out of the solar system.

This paper includes data gathered with the Carnegie 6.5 meter Magellan Telescopes located at Las Campanas Observatory, Chile, and is based in part on observations obtained at the Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii. Funding for the work was provided by NASA and the Gemini partnership, which includes: the National Science Foundation (United States), the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (United Kingdom), the 8 National Research Council (Canada), CONICYT (Chile), the Australian Research Council (Australia), CNPq (Brazil) and CONICET (Argentina).

Story Source:

Materials provided by Carnegie Institution. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


29 April Asteroid 2020: What are Asteroids and how are they formed?

According to current estimates, Asteroid '1998 OR2' will be the biggest asteroid to fly by Earth this year. The closest approach will be on 29 April around 5:56 a.m.

Asteroid '1998 OR2' was founded in 1998. With a period of 3 years and 8 months, the asteroid orbits around the Sun that is it will keep coming or visiting Earth once in 4 years. Let us tell you that 6.3 million km is 16 times Earth-Moon distance at 2.3 million km from Earth. It is said that it is travelling with a speed of around 32,000 km per hour and the interesting feature is that it looks like it is wearing a mask. It is like a reminder to us to wear a mask to fight against COVID-19 pandemic.

Asteroids are also known as space rocks. They are rocky remnants that travel in the solar system. Scientists are always eager to know about the early days of the solar system so that they can study asteroids because it contains clues about the early days of the solar system.

Our Solar system formed around 4.6 billion years ago from a collection of gas and dust that surrounds Sun. Much of the gas and dust formed planets and some of the debris leftover. Let us tell you that some debris shattered as remnants of planetesimals within the young sun's solar nebula that never grew large enough to become planets. Due to massive gravitational pull from Jupiter other debris never came together.

What are Asteroids?

Asteroids orbit the sun and are rocky, metallic bodies. They are made up of several rocks and metals like nickel, iron etc. Asteroids are also known as minor planets because they are very small than planets or moon. Asteroids do not have an atmosphere but it is said that about 150 asteroids are known which have small moons that orbit them and even some have two moons. In fact, some asteroids are also binary that is double where two rocky bodies of roughly equal size orbit each other and some are triple also. In 2013, scientists were surprised and discovered that at least one asteroid has rings.

Where in Space Asteroids are located?

Most of the asteroids are located in the asteroid belt in a large doughnut-shaped ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids orbit approximately 2 to 4 AU (186 million to 370 million miles/300 million to 600 million kilometers) from the sun.

Sometimes due to gravitational interactions with planets, some asteroids get altered and as a result, they end up coming closer to the Sun and to the Earth. These Asteroids are called Near-Earth Asteroids.

When Asteroids actually cross Earth's orbital path are called Earth-Crossers and an asteroid is called a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA) if it will come less than .05 AU from Earth.

Also according to some astronomers Asteroids also reaches solar system in the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud. It is said that there are millions of asteroids in the solar system. It is estimated by some scientists that the belt of asteroid gas 1.1 and 1.9 million asteroids which are larger than 1 kilometer or 0.6 miles in diameter and there are millions of smaller ones.

How are Asteroids formed?

Do you know that most of the asteroids are irregular in shape and it is difficult to spot them in the space because they are made up of dark material and are difficult to find against the darkness of outer space? Asteroids revolve around the sun in an elliptical orbit and have some quite erratic movements.

As we have read above that asteroids are made up of rocks with some clay, silicate and with different types of metals mostly nickel and iron. In some asteroids, according to the astronomers, some kind of precious metals are found like gold and platinum. In some asteroids, wide varieties of minerals have also been found like olivine and pyroxene and these minerals are also found on meteorites that have landed on Earth.

Most of the asteroids also contain vast amounts of carbon which shows that they closely follow the elemental composition of the Sun. Dawn mission observation indicates that water may have flowed across the surface of Vesta and may be asteroids also contain water or ice in their interiors.

No doubt asteroids are different from comets.

Comets usually have tails and are made up of ice and debris sublimating when the comet gets close to the sun. And we have study above that asteroids does not have tails even they come closer to the sun. Let us tell you that astronomers have spotted tails in some asteroids like asteroid P/2010 A2. This happens when asteroid hit with other asteroids and dust or gas is ejected from their surfaces which create an effect of a tail. Therefore, such types of asteroids are known as "active asteroids" and they are rarely found.


Other Interesting Facts

ʻOumuamua trajectory in the solar system.
  1. Previously we’ve had an article on ʻOumuamua, the interstellar interloper. Though previously thought to be a comet, ʻOumuamua was reclassified as an asteroid. It is the first known object from another star to visit our solar system and there are several theories on what it really is: an alien spyware, a comet, a lost natural asteroid. NASA however first termed ʻOumuamua as a comet because of its trajectory around the Sun, but due to lack of a coma which is characteristic of all comets, it was recategorized as an asteroid. We know of a few asteroids that have an orbit that goes outside of our solar system. 2060 Chiron (aka 95 P/Chiron) orbits between Saturn and Uranus. The orbit of 5335 Damocles ranges from near Mars to beyond Uranus. 5145 Pholus orbits from Saturn to past Neptune.
  2. On average 17 asteroids large enough to reach the ground fall on our planet every day. Most asteroid, though, are small and they usually burn up way before landing on the ground.
  3. Asteroids are considered to be the cause of the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
  4. Some asteroid showers seen on Earth are actually due to comets passing the Earth orbit. When comets approach the Sun, they generate a tail of material which will float in space until the Earth crosses the same area.
  5. Several spacecrafts have landed on asteroids over the years. According to NASA, at least 10 spacecrafts have landed on these celestial bodies including NEAR Shoemaker which landed on 433 Eros in 2001, surviving there for several weeks. Dawn Spacecraft orbited asteroid Vesta for months between 2011 and 2012 and in 2010, Hayabusa came back with samples of the asteroid Itokawa had taken in the year 2005.
  6. Charilko, an asteroid discovered in 2013 was found to have rings. This discovery was made by scientists when they discovered that when it passed in front of a star, it made the background blink. It has two rings to be specific.
  7. The asteroid 4Vesta is said to have differential layers similar to a terrestrial planet. This could mean that there is internal heat in the center, in addition to the heat released from isotopes. The heat from isotopes alone would not be enough to result in melting.
  8. Asteroids are known as minor planets since they have similar characteristics to other planets. Some have water flowing from their surface such as the asteroid Vesta. In 2015, gullies were observed that were assumed to be from water flowing on the surface. It has been assumed that when smaller asteroids slam into bigger asteroids, they release their ice onto the bigger asteroid. This ice turns into water that flows on the surface.
  9. Though they have similarities to planets, they are too small to support life. Their size is too small to hold atmosphere and their gravity is too weak to form a complete sphere. According to NASA, the mass of all asteroids in the solar system is smaller than the mass of our Moon.
  10. There is little knowledge of the density of asteroids. But using the Doppler Effect on radio waves returning from to the Earth from a Near-Earth Asteroids, we were able to measure the density of asteroid Mathilde. Its density was surprisingly not much more than that of water. This led them to conclude that perhaps it wasn’t a completely solid but a large pile of debris.
  11. We estimate that there are about 4.6 billion asteroid in our solar system. We can find them all around from very close to the Sun to some asteroid orbiting outside of the solar system. So far, we’ve mapped only about 800,000 of them.

Twin spacecraft to study “rubble pile” binary asteroids

Artist’s illustration of the twin Janus spacecraft on their way to study a pair of binary asteroids. Credit: Lockheed Martin

T he official go-ahead has been given by NASA to a mission to launch a pair of small spacecraft to capture the first-ever closeup look at a mysterious class of solar system objects: binary asteroids. These bodies are pairs of asteroids that orbit around each other in space, much like the Earth and Moon.

In a project review on Sept. 3, NASA gave the official go-ahead to the Janus mission, named after the two-faced Roman god. The mission will study these asteroid couplets in never-before-seen detail. Known as Key Decision Point-C (KDP-C), this review and approval from NASA allows for the project to begin implementation and baselines the project’s official schedule and budget.

It will be a moment for twos: In 2022, the Janus team will launch two identical spacecraft that will travel millions of miles to individually fly close to two pairs of binary asteroids. Their observations could open up a new window into how these diverse bodies evolve and even burst apart over time, said Daniel Scheeres, the principal investigator for Janus.

“Binary asteroids are one class of objects for which we don’t have high-resolution scientific data,” said Scheeres, distinguished professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences at CU Boulder. “Everything we have on them is based on ground observations, which don’t give you as much detail as being up close.”

The mission, which will cost less than $55 million under NASA’s SIMPLEx program, may also help to usher in a new era of space exploration, said Lockheed Martin’s Janus Project Manager Josh Wood. He explained that Janus’ twin spacecraft are designed to be small and nimble, each one about the size of a carry-on suitcase.

“We see an advantage to be able to shrink our spacecraft,” said Wood. “With technology advancements, we can now explore our solar system and address important science questions with smaller spacecraft.”

The mission will rendezvous with two binary pairs—named 1996 FG3 and 1991 VH – each showcasing a different kind of orbital pattern. The pair called 1991 VH, for example, has a “moon” that whips around a much bigger “primary” asteroid following a hard-to-predict pattern.

1996 FG3, comparable in size to the U.S. Pentagon building, will pass within 8,446,867 km (5,248,640 miles) of Earth in 2050. 1996 FG3 is estimated to be larger than 99% of the asteroids in our solar system and is likely comprised of nickel, iron, cobalt, water, nitrogen and ammonia.

1991 VH with a size comparable to the Golden Gate Bridge, orbits the Sun slower than 1996 FG3 and is expected to pass within 6,476,969 km (4,024,602 mi) of Earth in 2145. 1991 VH is estimated to be larger than approximately 97% of all other asteroids and is likely comprised of magnesium silicate and iron silicate.

You can see a simulation of the orbital path of the binary asteroids in relation to the Earth here.

Artist’s conception of a Janus satellite studying a binary asteroid. Credit: NASA

Janus is led by the University of Colorado Boulder, where Scheeres is based, which will also undertake the scientific analysis of images and data for the mission. Lockheed Martin will manage, build and operate the spacecraft.

The team will use a suite of cameras to track the dynamical motion in unprecedented detail. Among other goals, Scheeres and his colleagues hope to learn more about how binary asteroids move—both around each other and through space.

“Once we see them up close up, there will be a lot of questions we can answer, but these will raise new questions as well,” Scheeres said. “We think Janus will motivate additional missions to binary asteroids.”

Wood added that the mission’s twin spacecraft, each of which weigh just about 80 pounds, will travel farther than any small satellite to date.

After blasting off in 2022, they’ll first complete an orbit around the Sun, before heading back toward Earth and sling-shotting their way far into space and beyond the orbit of Mars.


What is a meteor and a meteorite?

A meteor is simply an asteroid that attempts to land on Earth but is vaporized by the Earth’s atmosphere. The resistance on the rock due to the Earth’s atmosphere causes its temperature to rise. We sometimes see the glowing hot air created by these burning meteors and dub them “shooting stars.” Meteor showers occur when the Earth passes by many meteors at once. For example, if chunks of a comet melt off as it passes close to the sun, this debris can be left behind to later dazzle us Earthlings with a meteor shower.

Meteorites are meteors that survive the dive through the Earth’s atmosphere and manage to land on the surface of our planet. They are typically composed of either iron or stone, i.e. a mix of oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron, and other elements.

Studying asteroids helps us understand the formation of our solar system and how our planet came to be. We don’t just have to wait for meteorites to find us to know more about their composition, however. The OSIRIS-Rex mission to the asteroid Bennu aims to take samples from the asteroid and bring them back to Earth. You can learn more about why Bennu was chosen for such a special mission on the OSIRIS-Rex mission page.

A version of this article was originally published on Quick and Dirty Tips as Asteroid, Meteor, Meteorite, and Comet: What's the Difference?
Read more from Quick and Dirty Tips.