You thought asteroids were bad? ESA warns COMETS may do far ‘MORE DAMAGE’ if they hit Earth — RT World News

Comets aren’t harbingers of doom, just harmless lumps of ice that produce majestic sky displays when passing the Sun, right? Not in line with the European Space Agency, which includes warned of the deadly capabilities.

A comet is “likely to cause more damage than an average asteroid of the same size,” the agency says – despite the fact that comets tend to weigh less than asteroids of similar size as the material they are made of is less dense.

This tidbit of alarming knowledge comes before Asteroid Day later this month, since the ESA tries to raise public awareness of the dangers space may pose to Earth.

The difference between asteroids and comets is in fact not as definitive as one may think, but broadly speaking we all know which is which. The former objects are rocky or metallic, originate from the region of the Asteroid Belt and may require some heroic oil drillers with a nuclear bomb to go to space and stop them, at least in accordance with Hollywood.

Comets, however, are made of frozen volatiles that the Sun boils and turns into spectacular plumes of gases and dust as they go by – something spooked the hell of our ancestors. They are relatively rare, though, and so are only present in large quantities on the outskirts of our solar system.

The ESA/NASA mission SOHO, which was launched in 1995, has recently celebrated its 4,000th comet discovery. For comparison, NASA tracks very nearly 23 thousand asteroids in Earth proximity, including over 900 which can be larger than one kilometer in dimensions.

But in terms of destructive power, size and mass are not the only real things that matter. Comets approach Earth at greater speeds, so if one were to collide with our planet it would do have more energy release an in an atmospheric explosion when compared to a heavier, slower-moving asteroid would.

The most effective impact event in recorded history, the 1908 Tunguska incident in Russia, may have been the effect of a comet as opposed to an asteroid, judging by the possible lack of debris following a crash. The Chelyabinsk meteor which wreaked havoc – again, in Russia – in 2013 was a rocky one, but the majority of its mass was obliterated in the airburst, with only small chunks achieving the surface.

Luckily, only around 100 comets that we know of come close to Earth, so their destructive potential will hopefully remain hypothetical in our entire life.

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