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There are some other bodies which revolve around the Sun. They are also members of the solar system. Let us learn about some of them.
There is a large gap in between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. This gap is occupied by a large number of small objects that revolve around the Sun. These are called asteroids. Asteroids can only be seen through large telescopes.
Comets are also members of our solar system. They revolve around the Sun in highly elliptical orbits. However, their period of revolution round the Sun is usually very long. A Comet appears generally as a bright head with a long tail. The length of the tail grows in size as it approaches the sun. The tail of a comet is always directed away from the sun.
Many comets are known to appear periodically. One such comet is Halley’s comet, which appears after nearly every 76 years. It was last seen in 1986.
Some people think that comets are messengers of disasters, such as wars, epidemics and floods. But these are all myths and superstitions. Appearance of a comet is a natural phenomenon. We have no reason to be afraid of it.
At night, when the sky is clear and the moon is not there, you may sometimes see bright streaks of light in the sky. These are commonly known as shooting stars, although they are not stars. They are called meteors. A meteor is usually a small object that occasionally enters the earth’s atmosphere. At that time it has a very high speed. The friction due to the atmosphere heats it up. It glows and evaporates quickly. That is why the bright steak lasts for a very short time.
Some meteors are large so that they can reach the Earth before they evaporate completely. The body that reaches the Earth is called a meteorite. Meteorites help scientists in investigating the nature of the material from which the solar system was formed.
When the Earth crosses the tail of a comet, swarms of meteors are seen. These are known as meteor showers. Some meteor showers occur at regular intervals each year. You can find the time of their appearance from a scientific magazine or from the internet.
You must have heard that there are a number of artificial satellites which are orbiting the Earth. You might wonder how artificial satellites are different from the natural satellites. The artificial satellites are man-made. They are launched from the Earth. They revolve around the Earth much closer than earth's natural satellite, the moon.
India has built and launched several artificial satellites. Aryabhatta was the first Indian satellite. Some other Indian satellites are INSAT, IRS, Kalpana-1, EDUSAT, etc.
Artificial satellites have many practical applications. They are used for forecasting weather, transmitting television and radio signals. They are also used for telecommunication and remote sensing.
By remote sensing we mean collecting information from a distance.
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