There are thousands of asteroids in orbit round the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. There are only four asteroids that are of substantial shape and definition. The largest of the asteroids is known as Ceres. It is the only asteroid in the belt that is spherical in shape like our Earth.
Ceres is known as a dwarf planet, it is the only asteroid in the belt that has that description. The other three large asteroids are not spherical so are just referred to as an asteroid. It was once thought of as a planet when it was first discovered but has been demoted to asteroid and then promoted to dwarf planet. It was promoted at the same time that Pluto was demoted from planet status.
Ceres was the Roman equivalent of the Greek Goddess Demeter. Ceres was the goddess of agriculture, grain and bread. The name was chosen in keeping with the other names for the other planets.
Ceres was the first asteroid to be discovered in the area between Mars and Jupiter. It was discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi, an Italian astronomer on January 1st, 1801. The following year, more objects were discovered in the same area. These new objects were named Asteroids by Sir William Herschel, the man who had discovered Uranus twenty years previous.
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