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

Cosmic Queries: Asteroids, Comets and Meteor Storms

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

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About This Episode

“Why are some asteroids mineral rich and some just big rocks?” “Is the asteroid belt actually the debris from a failed planet?” “What’s the difference between comets, asteroids, meteoroids, meteors, meteorites, planets, dwarf planets and more?” “Are there interstellar asteroids?” “Do we have the ability to track meteors the size of the one that exploded recently over Russia?” In this week’s podcast, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice answer fan questions about asteroids. You’ll find out why the Moon doesn’t have an iron core, what science fiction movies get wrong about the asteroid belt, and what happened to the other planets in our early solar system. You’ll also learn about Abe Lincoln and the Leonid Meteor Storm of 1833, the practicality of deflecting asteroids to use as weapons, and whether Neil would rather be a pirate or a ninja. (And that’s not even the weirdest question this episode!)

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: Cosmic Queries: Asteroids, Comets and Meteor Storms.

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  • Christina Vonthronsohnhaus

    When can you talk about Saturn????

  • Rick Schreiber

    Just covered this in Intro to Astronomy…great to hear you talk about it also!

  • Nick

    I couldn’t contain my laughter after that last question! Definitely just embarrassed myself in public.

  • BJ Forrest

    This is awesome! Thank you Neil deGrasse Tyson!

  • Markus Neusiedl

    Ok, I have some questions:
    1) Could the object that smashed into the earth creating the moon have been a planet from another solar system?
    2) When we finally are able to make a base on Mars, could we start mining asteroids from the asteroid belt?
    3) Could you destroy a black hole by firing a huge amount of antimatter at it? As far as I know, Matter + Antimatter = Energy but from what I have looked up on the internet, energy has a tiny bit of mass. Would that mass prevent this from working?
    It would be great if this can be answered/discussed in the next episode.

  • Why don’t you guys setup a cheap camera inside the studio and upload it to YT? Watching NDT animate is half the fun 😀

    • Jeff

      Bobo, we do that. You can find them on our “Behind the Scenes” playlist on our YouTube channel.

  • Robert Hart

    Wow – I really enjoyed the Q&A format. More work for Neil to be sure, but it allowed for brisk pacing and a variety of interesting topics. Wide-ranging questions were answered with good cheer and wit. I’d love to see this format again. Easily one of my favorite “Star Talk” episodes thus far. Nice job, guys.

  • Jeff, I mean the whole episode 😛

    • Jeff

      Ahh, that. Bobo, we are working on it…

  • Tyler

    I second Bobo’s motion!! Neil’s expressions are literally what drive the point across for me, I don’t know why but it helps me retain everything I’ve learned when it’s in video+audio form. Plus, why not take advantage of the popularity of Youtube all together? Not that there’s any shortage of Dr. Tyson’s videos online, from 5 minute quirks to 3 hour talks! But anyone who really likes NDT has watched 95% of the videos on youtube, plus all the seasons of star talk (I know I have). Weekly videos uploaded to YT that contain the entire program would no doubt increase Dr. T’s popularity, especially since he’s practically an internet legend 😀

    • Jeff

      Motion seconded and noted, Tyler. Like I said, we’re working on it.

  • Lennie

    Compared to our moon, what is the minimum mass necessary to form a spherical asteroid like Ceres?

  • so excited to listen to this show

  • Larry Gaugh


    GREAT episode! I just started a class called “Meteors, Asteroids, and Comets,” so uh, yeah, thanks! Any link to info on the part about possibly finding matter from another solar system embedded in another asteroid?

  • Thanks, Neil.

  • Amaven

    Chuck Nice compliments your show so well and is very funny. Thoroughly enjoyed this session. Thanks.

  • Iris

    Awesome! I love the show! Thank you, Neil, for teaching the world about space!

  • Yawa

    Does Venus’ near perfect orbit have anything to do with it not rotating in the same direction as the other planets?

  • Yawa

    If an asteroid did hit Mars, would we see that from Earth?

    • jim dorey

      if it hits on the side facing us, and was big enough, yah, probably would see it. considering there’s something like 100 tons a year that falls on earth, that we don’t see, even with satellites facing us, there’s probably as much junk falling on mars we don’t see.

  • Pingback: Announcing Our New StarTalk Radio Survey: Who Owns Space? | StarTalk Radio Show by Neil deGrasse Tyson()

  • OddParticle

    I like that Dr Horrible made it on the music list. And, of course, all the science!

  • Daniel Louis Stull

    I’m listening to this episode 2.17.2015 at work in Pittsburgh at about 43 am as all of our outdoor cameras flare up. I held my breath waiting to be vaporized and then felt stupid jumping to such a thought. Just found out 24 hours later it infact was a meteoroid.

    • startalkradio

      Talk about great timing!

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