Asteroids and The Asteroid Belt
Asteroids are pieces that orbit the Sun in our solar system. These rocks date back to when our solar system was formed 4.6 billion years ago. They orbit the Sun in an area of our solar system Between Mars and Jupiter called The Asteroid Belt. It`s estimated that there are millions of asteroids in this region of space.
Where moons come from
Sometimes these space rocks get caught up in Jupiter`s gravitational pull and are spit out farther into our solar system. Scientists think that some of the moons of the planets in our solar system were originally one of these space rocks. They also believe that a giant space rock may have collided with the Earth at sometime in its history. This collision would have changed the way the continents looked and affected the life that was on Earth at that time. 65 million years ago, the dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Scientists think that a giant space rock may have collided with the Earth. Such a collision would have thrown so much dirt and ash into the atmosphere, that it blocked out the Sun! The Sun is the lifeblood of Earth, without it all life on our planet would die. This might be how the dinosaurs became extinct.
These space rocks were first observed with telescopes in the 1800`s
The word asteroid means star-like in Greek. The phrase was first used by astronomer William Herschel to describe these heavenly objects. We`ve learned most of what we know about these objects through careful observation. These space rocks are observed very closely, especially when they are in orbit near Earth.
Scientists have been thinking about what they might do if they observe one of these space rocks on a collision course with the Earth.
Couldn`t we just blow it up?
Not necessarily, if we just send a missile to blow it up, it could break into lots of these rocks. An impact from lots of smaller rocks would be worse.
How do we study them?
Scientists use specialized tools called spectroscopes to study the light that is reflected off these planet-like objects.By analyzing them like this, we can figure out what they`re made of. We can rhen use this information to design missiles to knock them off course.Click here to return to the top of this asteroids page