Comets and asteroids are cosmic objects that constantly hover around the endless space of the universe. However, different from each other, comets and asteroids are commonly mistaken as the same materials.

What is the Difference Between Comets and Asteroids?

(Photo: Pablo Carlos Budassi / WikiCommons)

Comets are space rocks that are frequently seen propelling from outside the solar system itself. Because of the uncontrolled trajectory, comets are always charted to have a wide, elliptical orbit. The composition of comets is stunning, as they carry ice materials that, compared to normal ice on Earth, sublimate as the comet itself gets near the perimeter of the sun. The transition will eventually end up to a dusty mist known as a coma.

Asteroids, on the other hand, are usually found in their cosmic nursery known as the asteroid belt. The asteroid belt is sharted just between the red planet Mars and the titan orb Jupiter. The cluster of asteroids orbits in a space parallel to the two nearest planets. Asteroids are known to have dry and stony physical composition. Asteroids are also rare in a gaseous state and rarely participate in cosmic activities involving gas.

According to a study, a new space rock was found to have properties comparable to both comets and asteroids. The rock was named as (248370) 2005 QN173 and was surprisingly charted at the inner regions of the asteroid belt. The new comet-asteroid space rock was found t be hiding among the million asteroids on the solar system's boundary. In addition, the rock seemingly mimics the orbit movement of planets around the sun.

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Weird Space Rock Hybrid (248370) 2005 QN173

Among the notable observations gathered from the (248370) 2005 QN173 is the rock's ability to emit gas similar to comets. The activity was captured as the space rock was propelling towards the nearest space from the sun called the perihelion and exhibiting a cometary tail. The unique activity of the space rock indeed resembles both a comet and asteroid's characteristics.

Comet-asteroid hybrids are super rare to find in the galaxy. About 20 of these objects are only confirmed from over 500,000 main objects in the asteroid belt throughout the previous astronomical studies. The specific space rock (248370) 2005 QN173 is not just discovered to stay in its constant state, as it was already detected previously to had performed its recent exhibition on the perihelion on numerous occasions.

Planetary Science Institute astronomy expert and author of the study Henry Hsieh said in a Science Alert report that the behavior of the object from the asteroid belt is most probably due to its contained ice materials that had sublimated. The expert added that based on the observations from the new space rock hybrid (248370) 2005 QN173 could be considered both a comet or an asteroid. Either way, the space rock is part of the main asteroid belt and appears to have cometary properties so that it could be both of the two. The physical structure of the rock had ice, can emit dust trails, and undoubtedly orbits the massive asteroid belt. The study was published in Earth and Planetary Astrophysics, titled "Physical Characterization of Main-Belt Comet (248370) 2005 QN173."

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