May 4, 2013 3:45 pm

Preview this Sunday’s Episode: Cosmic Queries: Asteroids, Comets and Meteor Storms

Dead star, or "white dwarf," surrounded by the bits and pieces of a disintegrating asteroid

Artist’s concept illustrating a dead star, or “white dwarf,” surrounded by the bits and pieces of a disintegrating asteroid. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Back on February 15th, we put up a blog post called “Asteroids, Meteors, Meteorites…What’s the Difference?” in response to the sometimes confusing media coverage a few days earlier of the twin events of a meteor exploding over Russia on the same day that asteroid 2012 DA14 flew past Earth.

A few of you read that post expecting it to explain the differences between the three, and were annoyed that we didn’t. Some of you even let us know. (Which, by the way, is one of the great things about you, our audience. You let us know what you’re thinking… sometimes in colorful detail. Can you say Bill Maher? Or Janeane Garofalo? But I digress…)

When it comes to this Sunday’s episode,” Cosmic Queries: Asteroids, Comets and Meteor Storms,” astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson leaves no extraterrestrial stone unturned. Not only does he explain the difference between comets, asteroids, meteoroids, meteors and meteorites, but he also throws in planets, dwarf planets and rogue planets for good measure. In answering questions provided by you, he travels from the Asteroid Belt to the Kuiper Belt, and beyond, to the furthest reaches of our solar system. He goes back in time to the formation of our Moon, and even earlier, to before our Sun was born, to discuss presolar grains found in asteroids that have impacted with other asteroids from outside our solar system.

This being Cosmic Queries, Neil also tackles a few of your most unusual questions. “Would it be possible to use an asteroid as an interplanetary bus service?” “Why would the government tell us if an extinction-level asteroid impact was imminent?” “What amount of trajectory modification can be achieved by painting an asteroid white?” “Would you rather be a pirate or a ninja?” Is it possible to have a planet made of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), and, therefore, an asteroid?”

As comic co-host Chuck Nice says, “Where else but Cosmic Queries can you connect Able Lincoln with meteor showers?” (Oh yeah, there’s a story about Abe Lincoln, the Leonid Meteor Storm of 1833, and a doom-predicting preacher that you’re going to love.)

“Cosmic Queries: Asteroids, Comets and Meteor Storms” will be on our website and on iTunes Sunday night, May 5th, at 7:00 PM ET.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons

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