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Conceptual Questions



1

Distinguish between a meteoroid, a meteor, and a meteorite.
2

Tell what happens to meteoroids with diameters of (a) 10 millionths of a meter, (b) 1 centimeter, (c) 1 meter, and (d) 10 meters beginning from the time they enter the Earth's atmosphere.
3

Explain why the meteors in a given shower appear to be diverging from a fixed point in the sky.
4

Why do meteor showers recur on the same date each year?
5

Why are carbonaceous chondrites especially important for the study of the early solar system?
6

What is the significance of the large crystals contained in iron meteorites?
7

What does the cosmic ray exposure age tell us about the history of a meteorite?
8

How do we know that the parent bodies of the meteorites were larger than about 100 km in diameter?
9

Ceres, the first asteroid to be discovered, lies between Mars and Jupiter. Why was Ceres unknown to ancient astronomers?
10

What is the relationship between asteroids and meteorites?
11

Describe what happens to the nucleus of a comet as it moves from 10 AU from the Sun to 0.5 AU from the Sun.
12

Where does the gas and the dust in the coma of a comet come from?
13

Why do the dust tail and the plasma tail of a comet point away from the Sun?
14

What evidence is there that the Sun is surrounded by a vast cloud of comets known as the Oort cloud?
15

What causes Oort cloud comets to enter the inner solar system and become visible as new comets?
16

Where do short-period comets come from?
17

What is the eventual fate of most short-period and long-period comets?
18

What is the relationship between comets and meteor showers?
19

What evidence do we have that comets are permanent solar system members rather than interlopers from other parts of the galaxy?
20

Suppose the Earth were struck by an asteroid 10 km in diameter. Describe the local and global consequences of the impact.
21

What evidence do we have that the extinction of species at the end of the Cretaceous era was associated with an asteroid or comet striking the Earth?







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