What are asteroids, you may
be asking. They are large pieces of rock left over from the making
of the solar system. That took place about 4.5 billion years ago.
Most of these pieces of ancient rubble, sometimes referred to by
scientist as minor planets or plantoids, can be found circling the
sun in a belt between Mars and Jupiter. This area in our solar
system is called the Asteroid Belt or the Main Belt. This belt
contains thousands of asteroids thrashing through it. Asteroids
range widely in size from a small body that is less than 1 km
across to bodies that are as big as 1/4 of the moon.
Asteroids look like giant
potatoes, filled with caters and fractures. There very odd looking
Revolving around the
Sun in a oval orbit, they occasionally have very close encounter
with a planet or another asteroid. That near collision changes the
asteroid's orbit, knocking it out of the Main Belt and throwing it
into the orbits of other planets. Scientist believe this may be
what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
In the 1800's asteroids were
first observed with telescopes by astronomers. In 1802 William
Herschel first used the word "asteroid", which means star like in
Greek, to describe these large rocks. in the past 200 years most
of our information has been discovered with telescopes.