First, let me address the traditional explanation of the difference between comets and asteroids. Secondly, I will inform you of what traditional explanations omit – by accident or purposeful is for you to decide. My personal research has come to the following conclusion: In the most simple of terms: “An asteroid is nothing more than an outgassed comet…period.”
The main difference between asteroids and comets is their composition, as in, what they are made of. Asteroids are made up of metals and rocky material, while comets are made up of ice, dust and rocky material. Both asteroids and comets were formed early in the history of the solar system about 4.5 billion years ago. Asteroids formed much closer to the Sun, where it was too warm for ices to remain solid. Comets formed farther from the Sun where ices would not melt.
The hypothesis of the explosion of a number of planets and moons of our Solar System during its 4.6-billion-year history is in excellent accord with all known observational constraints, even without adjustable parameters or ad hoc helper hypotheses.
Many of its boldest predictions have been fulfilled. In most instances, these predictions were judged highly unlikely by the current standard models. Moreover, in several cases, the entire exploded planet model was at risk of being falsified if the predictions failed.
The successful predictions include: (1) satellites of asteroids; (2) satellites of comets; (3) salt water in meteorites; (4) ‘roll marks’ leading to boulders on asteroids; (5) the time and peak rate of the 1999 Leonid meteor storm; (6) explosion signatures for asteroids; (7) the strongly spiked energy parameter for new comets; (8) the distribution of black material on slowly rotating airless bodies; (9) splitting velocities of comets; (10) the asteroid-like nature of Deep Impact target Comet Tempel 1; and (11) the presence of high-formation-temperature minerals in the Stardust comet dust sample return.
By all existing evidence, the exploded planet hypothesis has proved far more useful than the half-dozen or so hypotheses it would replace. Among the many important conclusions are the following. (a) Perhaps as many as six former planets of our Solar System have exploded over its 4.6-billion-year history. (b) In particular, Mars is not an original planet, but a former moon of an exploded planet. (c) As a major player in Solar System evolution, the exploded planet scenario must be considered as a likely propagation vehicle for the spread of biogenic organisms.
NASA’s NEOWISE mission has recently discovered some celestial objects traveling through our neighborhood, including one on the blurry line between asteroid and comet. Another asteroid/comet might be seen with binoculars through next week.
An object called 2016 WF9 was detected by the NEOWISE project on Nov. 27, 2016. It is in an orbit that takes it on a scenic tour of our solar system. At its farthest distance from the Sun, it approaches Jupiter’s orbit. Over the course of 4.9 Earth-years, it travels inward, passing under the main asteroid belt and the orbit of Mars until it swings just inside Earth’s own orbit. After that, it heads back toward the outer solar system. Objects in these types of orbits have multiple possible origins; it might once have been a comet, or it could have strayed from a population of dark objects in the main asteroid belt.
2016 WF9 will approach Earth’s orbit on Feb. 25, 2017. At a distance of nearly 32 million miles (51 million kilometers) from Earth, this pass will not bring it particularly close. The trajectory of 2016 WF9 is well understood, and the object is not a threat to Earth for the foreseeable future.
A different object, discovered by NEOWISE a month earlier, is more clearly a comet, releasing dust as it nears the Sun. This comet, C/2016 U1 NEOWISE, “has a good chance of becoming visible through a good pair of binoculars, although we can’t be sure because a comet’s brightness is notoriously unpredictable,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
As seen from the northern hemisphere during the first week of 2017, comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE will be in the southeastern sky shortly before dawn. It is moving farther south each day and it will reach its closest point to the Sun, inside the orbit of Mercury, on Jan. 14, before heading back out to the outer reaches of the solar system for an orbit lasting thousands of years. While it will be visible to skywatchers at Earth, it is not considered a threat to our planet either.
NEOWISE is the asteroid-and-comet-hunting portion of the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. After discovering more than 34,000 asteroids during its original mission, NEOWISE was brought out of hibernation in December of 2013 to find and learn more about asteroids and comets that could pose an impact hazard to Earth. If 2016 WF9 turns out to be a comet, it would be the 10th discovered since reactivation. If it turns out to be an asteroid, it would be the 100th discovered since reactivation.
What NEOWISE scientists do know is that 2016 WF9 is relatively large: roughly 0.3 to 0.6 mile (0.5 to 1 kilometer) across. It is also rather dark, reflecting only a few percent of the light that falls on its surface. This body resembles a comet in its reflectivity and orbit, but appears to lack the characteristic dust and gas cloud that defines a comet.
“2016 WF9 could have cometary origins,” said Deputy Principal Investigator James “Gerbs” Bauer at JPL. “This object illustrates that the boundary between asteroids and comets is a blurry one; perhaps over time this object has lost the majority of the volatiles that linger on or just under its surface.”
Near-Earth objects (NEOs) absorb most of the light that falls on them and re-emit that energy at infrared wavelengths. This enables NEOWISE’s infrared detectors to study both dark and light-colored NEOs with nearly equal clarity and sensitivity.
“These are quite dark objects,” said NEOWISE team member Joseph Masiero, “Think of new asphalt on streets; these objects would look like charcoal, or in some cases are even darker than that.
NEOWISE data have been used to measure the size of each near-Earth object it observes. Thirty-one asteroids that NEOWISE has discovered pass within about 20 lunar distances from Earth’s orbit, and 19 are more than 460 feet (140 meters) in size but reflect less than 10 percent of the Sunlight that falls on them.
The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has completed its seventh year in space after being launched on Dec. 14, 2009.
As a result of natural disasters occurring more often (no surprise for us paying attention), I find myself engaged in the onsite events more often, and less available to maintain my alternative ventures keeping SOC healthy. But thanks to my wife’s exorbitant creative thinking, I believe we found a way to stay on top.
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