Comet with Asteroid-like Composition Discovered by NASA

At least one comet isn’t quite what astronomers expected, based on the results of NASA’s Stardust mission. Although Wild 2 orbits like a comet, a chemical analysis by scientists indicates that the comet’s composition is asteroidal, resembling objects from the inner solar system’s famous asteroid belt rather than “pristine and ancient materials expected to be deep-frozen in the much more distant Kuiper Belt.”

Short-Lived Comets

A comet spends most of its time far from the sun in the deep freeze of space. But once each orbit a comet comes very close to the sun, allowing the sun’s heat to evaporate much of the comet’s ice and dislodge dust to form a beautiful tail. Comets have little mass, so each close pass to the sun greatly reduces a comet’s size, and eventually comets fade away. They can’t survive billions of years.

Did Comets Have a Role In Forming Earth’s Oceans?

Kuiper comets capture credit for watering the early Earth. Evolutionary scientists believe that water was needed for the evolution of life but have long debated how the early earth could have been supplied with that water. Now a team from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, analyzing data from the Herschel Space Observatory, has determined that comets from the Kuiper belt may have been that ancient source.

Articles About Comets


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