An asteroid or comet? This space rock is a combination of both

Edited By: Manas Joshi WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Oct 06, 2021, 05:32 PM(IST)

Representative image. Photograph:( AFP )

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This space rock revolves around the Sun like any other asteroid in the asteroid belt situated between Mars and Jupiter. But this one is a tricky customer. Read on what makes this asteroid 'also a comet'

A comet and an asteroid are chalk and cheese. The difference between these two is perhaps as large as the distance between respective places where they usually hang out in space

A comet comes from outer space. They are icy. As they approach the Sun, the heat begins to melt the ice and the 'outgassing' as it is called, forms the 'tail' of the comet that we see when it passes by Earth.

Asteroids on the other hand are generally located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. These space rocks do not have a spectacular look like comets but the fate of dinosaurs makes us keep a close watch on them. Asteroids are very much part of the solar system and have orbits around the Sun that are somewhat similar to those of the planets.

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A newly discovered space rock seems to be a hybrid of both classes. It has been named (248370) 2005 QN173

There is nothing special about its location. It hangs out in the asteroid belt like a million others and peacefully revolves around the Sun.

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But in July this year, the asteroid was seen to show signs of outgassing just like a comet. The outgassing was seen when the asteroid was relatively closer to the Sun in his orbit. So it has characteristics of an asteroid as well as a comet

Such space objects are called active asteroids or main-belt comets. These are very rare. Only 7 have been confirmed to be main-belt comet so far.

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