What is the difference between a meteor and a comet?

Meteors are very small bits of metallic material, usually scarcely larger than bits of gravel, but sometimes large enough to weigh many tons. It is believed that some meteors are parts of broken-up comets. We never see meteors unless they come into contact with the dense air of the Earth’s atmosphere and are set on fire by friction. Most of them burn themselves out in the air, but sometimes they fall on Earth, and when geologists find them they call them meteors.

A comet looks rather like a star with a long tail, and it moves in a long, oval orbit or path around the Sun. A comet has three parts – the nucleus, the coma and the tail. The nucleus is made up of a cluster of meteors. The coma is a veil of thin gasses and star dust that surround the nucleus. The long, shining tail is a cloud of particles repelled by the Sun’s light. Some comets have more than one tail. All of the comet’s light comes from the Sun, and as the comet gets nearer to the Sun in its travels it shines more and more brightly.

The path of the comet is so long that we may see one particular comet only once in fifty or in a hundred or two hundred years. When we see a meteor it flashes across the sky in an instant, but a comet does not appear to move any faster than the Moon.

Additional reading:
Meteoroid (Wikipedia)
Comet (Wikipedia)

Related posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *