rtist's concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft © NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

What asteroids can tell us about our Solar System

Natalie Starkey explains the difference between a comet and an asteroid, how they could help us understand the origins of life, and why we shouldn’t be too worried about one colliding with Earth.

This week the Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak, and anybody looking up into the night sky can expect to see shooting stars as meteors burn up in the planet’s atmosphere. But what exactly is happening here, and what can these big rocks in space tell us about life on Earth?

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In this week’s podcast, Natalie Starkey, author of the book Catching Stardust: Comets, Asteroids and the Birth of the Solar System (£16.99, Bloomsbury), explains the difference between a comet and an asteroid, how they could help us understand the origins of life, and why we shouldn’t be too worried about one colliding with Earth.

She speaks to sciencefocus.com editor Alexander McNamara.

You can also read more about the Hayabusa2 and OSIRIS-REx missions in the August 2018 issue of BBC Focus, where we also celebrate NASA’s 60th birthday and ask why we haven’t developed a male contraceptive pill yet. And there is of course much, much more inside.

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