When found, asteroids were seen as a class of objects distinct from comets, and there was no unified term for the two until "small Solar System body" was coined in 2006. The main difference between an asteroid and a comet is that a comet shows a coma due to sublimation of near surface ices by solar radiation. A few objects have ended up being dual-listed because they were first classified as minor planets but later showed evidence of cometary activity. Conversely, some (perhaps all) comets are eventually depleted of their surface volatile ices and become asteroid-like. A further distinction is that comets typically have more eccentric orbits than most asteroids; most "asteroids" with notably eccentric orbits are probably dormant or extinct comets. [27]

In the unlikely event that the asteroid is deemed a threat, NASA has a Planetary Defense Coordination Office that has scenarios for defusing the situation. In the same broadcast, PDCO planetary defense officer Lindley Johnson said the agency has two technologies at the least that could be used: a kinetic impactor (meaning, a spacecraft that slams into the asteroid to move its orbit) or a gravity tractor (meaning, a spacecraft that remains near an asteroid for a long period of time, using its own gravity to gradually alter the asteroid's path.) PDCO would also consult with the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and likely other space agencies, to determine what to do. However, there is no known asteroid (or comet) threat to Earth and NASA carefully tracks all known objects through a network of partner telescopes.