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Comets And Meteor Showers

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... NASA: Comets And Meteor Showers (Perseid Meteor Shower).

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Have you ever wondered what makes these cosmic fireworks? Meteor showers are just colorful debris of a passing comet or occasionally , the debris from a fragmented asteroid. When a comet nears the sun, its icy surface heats up. This causes clouds of gas, dirt and dust to be released, forming a tail of debris that can stretch for millions of miles.

As Earth passes near this dusty tail, some of the small dust particles hit our atmosphere. They burn up and create great celestial fireworks for us to enjoy.

NASA generates meteor shower forecasts to prevent potential hazards to spacecraft that are launching and orbiting Earth. NASA also monitors these showers to check the accuracy of the forecasts.

You can learn about all of NASA's missions at .

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Rocks and Ice in the Solar System

Our Solar System consists of the Sun, planets, and moons, but it also contains a multitude of smaller chunks of rock and ice. These objects were left over from the time when our Sun and Solar System formed.

So where are all of these small neighbors? Millions of rocky chunks called asteroids orbit in a region between the four rocky inner planets and the four outer gas giant planets. The Dawn mission is currently on its way to investigate Ceres and Vesta, two of the largest asteroids. Beyond Neptune, there is another swarm of objects made mostly of ice and dust. This is the disc-shaped region known as the Kuiper Belt, the origin of many comets. Some comets originate even farther out, from a giant shell of objects near the edge of the Solar System known as the Oort Cloud.

Our Solar System consists of the Sun, planets, and moons, but it also contains a multitude of smaller chunks of rock and ice. These objects were left over from the time when our Sun and Solar System formed.

So where are all of these small neighbors? Millions of rocky chunks called asteroids orbit in a region between the four rocky inner planets and the four outer gas giant planets. The Dawn mission is currently on its way to investigate Ceres and Vesta, two of the largest asteroids. Beyond Neptune, there is another swarm of objects made mostly of ice and dust. This is the disc-shaped region known as the Kuiper Belt, the origin of many comets. Some comets originate even farther out, from a giant shell of objects near the edge of the Solar System known as the Oort Cloud.

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