Booking Great Balls of Fire
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Asteroids and comets are messengers from space that have had a significant effect on Earth’s history and are likely to influence the future as well.
Visitors of all ages can take on the role of explorers beyond the physical bounds of the exhibition itself by participating in real-world amateur astronomy activities – e.g., observing the next Leonid meteor shower visible in their locale, joining a ‘rockhound’ club to look for meteorites, getting involved in classes or workshops at a local planetarium.
Visitors make comparisons between the risk of asteroid or comet impacts and the risk of more familiar natural disasters such as tsunamis, tornados, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The exhibit will weave in stories of individual scientists whose work has furthered the study of asteroids and comets. Scientists, whose formative years included amateur explorer activities, will also be highlighted.
Take Away Messages
- Comets and asteroids are part of the Solar System and have very similar origins dating back to its formation.
- Comets and asteroids reside in a few distinct regions of the Solar System, with the regions that are home to comets being much further away from Earth (and the Sun) than the region in which asteroids are located.
- Because they are relatively close to Earth, asteroids are made up of the same compositional elements as our planet.
- The composition of comets includes ices that warm up upon approaching the Sun, causing out-gassing that sometimes generate highly visible tails.
- Meteoroids, small pieces of asteroids or comets that either burn up in the atmosphere or, as meteorites, strike the surface of the planet, generally do very little damage.
- Comets and asteroids pose a danger of colliding with planets, moons or each other only on very rare occasions, but with potentially devastating consequences.