Could a comet destroy life on Earth?

Halley's cometYes. But a comet’s destructive potential depends on its composition, mass and relative velocity. While the properties of its orbit will affect its relative velocity with the planet, the mass and composition of a comet could vary widely: from a highly porous, fluffy ice ball, to a dense, water-bearing chunk of space rock.

Understanding the range in potential properties of the comets will help us become more accurate in estimating and responding to the threat from any particular body. Without knowledge and understanding of a comet’s likely internal structure, formulating ways to break it up or to push it aside will suffer from being forced to anticipate or estimate a very wide range in the characteristics of such an object.


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