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Comets, Asteroids, and the Birth of the Solar System

Afternoon Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, February 23, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0159
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Natalie Starkey

Encrusted, rocky, sometimes dusty, always mysterious–comets and asteroids are among the solar system's very oldest objects, formed within a swirling cloud of gas and dust in the area of space eventually occupied by the Sun and its planets. Locked within each of these extra-terrestrial objects is the solar system’s 4.6-billion-year backstory. By getting close enough to them in space, we can pry open their closely guarded secrets and, perhaps, retrieve the answers to fundamental questions about our planet and its inhabitants.

Exploring comets and asteroids also alerts us to future possibilities of catastrophic impacts from space or information about the existence of valuable raw materials. Beyond earthly uses, such cosmic bounty could provide the necessary fuel and supplies for humans venturing into deep space to explore the far reaches of the solar system.

Join geologist and cosmochemist Natalie Starkey, author of Catching Stardust: Comets, Asteroids, and the Birth of the Solar System, as she reveals how scientists are using these enigmatic celestial objects to help them understand a crucial time in our history: The birth of the solar system and everything contained within it.

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Inside Science

This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.