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Asteroid Belt, Near Earth Objects

Asteroid Facts

What is an Asteroid?

In the most simplestic of terms, Asteroids are rocks of various sizes that orbit the Sun. The majority of asteroids are irregular shaped, Ceres is one that stands out as it spherical in nature. Ceres was upgraded to Dwarf Planet status at the same time that Pluto was downgraded.

Asteroids are also referred to as Minor Planets and the I.A.U. site that monitors them is known as I.A.U. Minor Planet Center . Those that come close to Earth are known as Near Earth Objects.

Asteroids exist in two main areas around the Sun, the first is the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter and the second is in the Kuiper Belt outside the orbit of Neptune, which are also known as Transneptunian Objects . This article is about the belt between Mars and Jupiter. The Kuiper Belt includes the now demoted planet of Pluto to dwarf-planet status.

The vast majority of the asteroids are between those two planets, however there are some that closer in to the Sun and there are some that are further out. A number of asteroids have had close encounters with the Earth such as the asteroid that went past in Jan 2017. Fortunately, the really big ones have not hit for millions of years. An asteroid that does hit the Earths atmosphere is tended to be referred to as a meteor.

Asteroids and meteoroids were created when the universe was young or as a result of a collision. Some travel through space on a circular journey, others erratically. Some asteroids have been known to be the source of meteors showers, the periodic time of year when the Earth passes through a large amount of debris which they burn up in the atmosphere.

Meteroids can also be broken off parts from an asteroid. The main difference can be the size, if its large then its an asteroid, anything smaller is a meteoroid. There is no real clear size definition for when an object is an asteroid or a meteor.

The term Asteroids was coined by Sir William Herschel from the greek asteroeides, aster "star" + -eidos "form, shape". They were discovered after a search was carried out by astronomers who wanted to find out if a theory by Johannes Kepler was correct or not. Kepler predicted that the planets were spaced out according to a pattern of numbers. One of those numbers pointed to a location in space where there was no planet. After searching, the asteroid Ceres was found on the 1st January 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi. Google

After Ceres was discovered, more asteroids were found which led astronomers to the conclusion of a asteroid belt containing hundreds of small and large objects. Their paths are erratic, it is believed that one of these asteroids hit Earth and caused the death of the dinosaurs.

Asteroid Field in Films

You've also probably seen Farscape episodes such as Bone to be Wild where the crew of Moya hide out in an asteroid field or more likely in the Star Wars film Star Wars V - The Empire Strikes Back where in order to escape from the chasing Empire, Han Solo flies the Millennium Falcon hides in an asteroid belt and think asteroids are all close together. The truth is that asteroids are not tightly packed in as they are in the film.

The gaps between the asteroids are vast and can easily be navigated. Asteroids are forever being discovered as there is so many and not all have monitored. Asteroids are monitored in case they plan to get to close. They are far too many of them to list. What we do know is that none of them competes with the largest asteroids for size, if they did, we probably known about them now.

Are the asteroids the remains of a Planet?

There is a theory that all the asteroids were once part of a planet in ancient times. That planet is referred to as Phaeton after the Greek Mythological characterl. Phaeton stole his father (Helios, the sun God)'s chariot and rode it with disastrous results which prompted Zeus to destroy it.

Part of the reason is the discredited Titus-Bode Law or just bodes. The law stated that planets would extend out from the sun twice the distance as the one before. It had been correct to predict Ceres and Uranus but didn't work for Neptune. Wiki

The total mass of all the asteroids in the belt is only about 4% the mass of the moon and less of the Earth. Of those asteroids, the largest four asteroids (Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, Hygiea) make up half the mass of all the asteroids. In addition, the asteroids are composited of different materials signifying that they are from different sources. If the asteroids were the result of a planet then they should all have the same composition. Cornell

Although they were probably not the result of a planet that was smashed up, there is another theory to their existance. Another theory is that when the planets were forming, the asteroids were not able to merge and form a planet themselves. The planet would be a dwarf planet, smaller than Mercury.

Asteroid Types / Categories

Asteroids fall into one of three main categories :-

The biggest asteroid is Ceres, now classed as a dwarf planet. It is situated between Mars and Jupiter and doesn't resemble a planet that we would recognise, i.e. a sphere. It is named after the goddess of harvest.

It was once thought that life hitch-hiked on a comet but after rosetta space probe landed on Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko but failed to find any evidence of amino acids, attention has turned to asteroids and meteors.

Interstellar Asteroid (Oumuamua)

An Interstellar Asteroid is one that travels between two star systems. At present we know of one such asteroid, that asteroid is known as Oumuamua. The asteroids name is a Hawaiian word meaning Scout. A Hawaiian word was chosen because it was discovered by scientists in Hawaii.

An asteroid doesn't have to necessarily orbit the Sun to be classed as an asteroid. Oumuamua is said to have come from outside the Solar System and isn't on a circular path round the Sun. N.A.S.A. refer to it as an asteroid so there you go, an asteroid is just a large piece of rock in space.

Some people have tried to pass the rock off as an alien spaceship. The proponents of the theory believe that the aliens onboard have either died or have decided that we're just not that interesting to communicate with.

Based on a number of calculations, scientists believe that the source of the asteroid could be Hip 3757 in the constellation of Cetus or HD 292249 in the constellation of Monoceros.

What is the chance of an Asteroid Strike?

Low, very low, the last asteroid strike that did real damage was the asteroid that killed the Dinosaurs millions of years ago. Our planet is hit constantly by asteroids, they normally burn up on impact. Those that do make it to land are so tiny that damage is minimal. A few people have been killed by an asteroid but I wouldn't loose sleep over it.

How are asteroids named?

Planets and dwarf planets are named after deities from Mercury to Sedna. Stars are given identification numbers and only bright stars such as Sirius have traditional / proper names. Asteroids can be named after the person who discovered them such as 792 Metcalfia whose discoverer was Joel Hastings Metcalf.

An asteroid can be dedicated to someone, someone who had impressed the discoverer, such as 316201 Malala which was dedicated to the young female rights activist Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who came to world attention when she was shot by the Taliban.

The number associated with an asteroid which for example, 243 is associated with Ida means it is 243rd asteroid to have been discovered. Therefore the asteroid first discovered is also the largest, Ceres. Ceres was once a planet before being downgraded to an asteroid. It was regraded at the same time Pluto was downgraded to that of a Dwarf Planet. As asteroids are being discovered all the time, it is not possible to give you the highest asteroid number, its always changing.

They can also be dedicated to fictional characters such as James Bond, the British fictional spy or to Donald Duck, the Disney cartoon character. James Bond's asteroid's ID is 9007 so it was thought logical at the time to name the asteroid after the character. In conclusion, if you want an asteroid named after you, all you need to do is to discover an asteroid or do something good that will get peoples attention.

Do Asteroids Have Moons?

Wrong, the first such asteroid that was discovered to have a moon was Asteroid 243 Ida. It was first acknowledged that asteroids could have moons in February 1994 when scientists discovered that when the Galileo space probe flew past on 28th August 1993, the probe had taken a photo of Ida and its moon Dactyl. N.A.S.A.

Ida is named after the Greek Mythical Nymph Ida who looked after Zeus when he was a baby. Dactyl is the name of mythical creatures that lived on Mount Ida on Crete, a Greek Island.

List of the biggest/major Asteroids?

The table below details a number of asteroids whose information is made available from the N.A.S.A. website. Clicking on a link will allow you to see more information and possibly a photo of the asteroid in question. If you want more information on asteroids then visit the NASA site. Some pages when selected will contain a picture of the asteroid, some will contain the path the asteroid takes. If I have not generated a path picture for the asteroid you want, visit the NASA Asteroid Simulator and replace 'CERES' with the asteroid you want e.g. Chiron. For some asteroids you will need to enter Number with the Name appended. For the FF asteroid, enter the name 1995FF to get the details.

NameOrbital PeriodOrbital Eccentricity
UP2.550.473
AV431.440.238
1998 DV92.310.434
James Bond3.890.15196
Moore3.680.108078
TU1.650.322
VG1.040.049
KA23.330.77
ES11.680.588
XM12.980.568
FF3.540.707
UB1.660.413
JA14.110.701
BJ82.620.55
GU330.507
Golevka3.990.597
Mithra3.260.663
QV71.660.522
QW72.730.469
RD532.340.428
DP1071.590.377
YA3.660.652
BA160.910.137
YF291.820.371
EC4.140.773
GQ21.340.505
WM152.540.593
YB53.660.865
CB262.730.723
EM70.890.363
NY402.910.71
FH121.140.54
PM1.80.753
FG21.480.356
GT2.10.383
SF361.530.28
UY44.330.62
Pan30.587
AQ100.910.234
CC2.090.417
FE902.680.495
MN0.550.664
EY22.270.487
FW43.950.729
CU111.350.296
VP111.130.584
CB191.460.452
NT72.290.529
GP21.060.074
1994 PC11.560.328
1989 JA2.350.484
HH491.930.502
GE22.020.557
SF101.450.253
NC10.810.208
AN101.760.562
XF111.730.484
SG3440.970.067
WR120.650.405
BB101.430.425
LG60.880.112
SB451.950.397
QK14.670.642
SH361.130.571
WT240.610.418
VD351.960.477
FA1.120.133
AN1292.450.525
Castalia1.10.4831
Apollo1.810.56
DB71.320.195
GV2.850.519
Asclepius1.030.357
TU281.110.183
Geographos1.390.3356
TA1.910.479
RS111.450.321
Nereus1.820.36
RQ361.20.205
Hathor0.780.45
Toutatis3.980.634
DO11.70.681
CS2.640.77
JU31.30.19
OR23.70.566
TC254.040.614
BA3.060.667
UG112.670.57
SO51.130.065
Icarus1.120.8268
UQ0.880.265
WO1070.870.781
Phaethon1.430.89
SC151.440.415
Eros1.760.2229
Vesta3.630.895
Siwa4.510.2157
Shipka5.250.1237
Rodari3.250.0572
Pallas4.610.2299
Otawara3.190.1449
Mimistrobell3.380.0831
McAuliffe2.570.3686
Mathilde4.310.266
Kleopatra4.670.2535
Juno4.360.2579
Itokawa1.520.2789
Ida4.840.0451
Gaspra3.290.1738
Eugenia4.490.0831
Chiron50.70.3801
Ceres4.60.0789
Braille3.680.4336
Anne Frank3.290.643
Astraea0.1911
Victoria0.221
2011 MC0.616
2011 HP40.614
2000 QS70.667
6344 P-L0.665
2001 HA40.795
1998 SJ700.705
2011 EU290.700
2003 QC100.731
2008 XM0.909
2003 UL30.798
2004 HW0.635
2012 UR1580.855
2011 UE3050.670
2004 TB180.450
2008 ED690.739
2004 CL0.536
2003 YG1180.642
2004 BE680.444
2011 HP0.481
2010 UM70.682
2010 TU1490.828
2010 LU1080.818
2001 YB50.866
2009 KM0.790
2008 XM10.782
2006 AR30.638
2005 NZ60.865
Lugh0.703
2004 NL80.720
1999 RD320.770
1996 JG0.660
2005 UD0.872
2002 SY500.689
2005 TF500.869
2005 JU10.686
2005 EM1690.739
2004 YD50.779
2004 TG100.862
2004 BZ740.889
2003 AC230.577
2002 XO140.645
2002 UK110.575
2002 MT30.691
2002 GM50.695
2002 FC0.659
2002 EV110.890
2000 KA0.462
1999 RM450.644
1998 SH20.714
1997 QK10.647
Chariklo62.930.1721
2003 BD440.606
2001 ME10.870
1991 AQ0.777
2004 YD0.241
2013 KB0.468
2011 UE0.439
2010 UM0.372
2005 TF0.456
2003 QC0.530
2003 MU0.495
2002 XO10.574
2002 EV0.582
2003 EH10.619
2005 CA0.589
2003 QO1040.525

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Comments and Questions

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venus
who was the discover
Donald
Donald, good point, I will check and correct my information.
Donald
You have a great web site! Should not you list the last column of the asteroid data as (Earth) years, and not days? Even a high-speed bullet couldn't travel around the 'Sun' within the times stated.
khushbu
what is the real meaning of asteroids and which mineral does it contain
x
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