Asteroids

On-line Lesson

‡ Asteroids are quite irregular in shape and therefore the light they reflect from the Sun fluctuates as they move and rotate. . ‡ They range in size from one metre ( or perhaps smaller ) up to 1000 km.On-line Lesson: Asteroids What are they? ‡ Asteroids are solid pieces of rock that have been left around the Solar System from the time when the planets formed.

they have no cloud of diffuse light around them. . ‡ Unlike comets. ‡ Because they are very cold they don¶t emit much radiation themselves but they can be seen by very sensitive Infra-Red telescopes such as ISO.On-line Lesson: Asteroids What do they look like ? ‡ We have never seen any asteroids close up but in a telescope they look like a tiny point of light.

On-line Lesson: Asteroids ‡ Asteroids are very irregular in shape as these pictures taken from a spacecraft nearby show. ‡ They are quite similar to small planets or moons like Phobos .

.On-line Lesson: Asteroids How Many Are There? ‡ Recent surveys using Infra-Red telescopes indicates that in the main Asteroid belt around the Sun there are at least 1.1 million asteroids larger than 1 km.

On-line Lesson: Asteroids Different types By studying both the brightness and the reflectivity of certain colours it becomes clear that asteroids fall into several different groups. M are believed to be metallic C are thought to be carbonaecous S contain more silicates .

‡ The orbits of asteroids are more or less circular and they have orbital periods of three to six years.2 and 3. . ‡ Not all orbits around the Sun are populated with asteroids because the motion of the main planets interferes with some orbits and makes them unstable for asteroids. ‡ The majority of asteroids are in the Asteroid Belt with distances from the Sun between 2.2 astronomical units.On-line Lesson: Asteroids Where are they? ‡ Asteroids circle around the Sun in orbits that trace their origins in the Solar System.

‡ To be sure that it is an asteroid rather than a planet or comet. enough observations must be taken to be able to measure the mathematical parameters of the orbit.On-line Lesson: Asteroids ‡ Looking for asteroids in a telescope requires a search for objects which move from one night to the next and are point like in appearance. Detection .

which can change with time as they are affected by passing planets. ‡ An object 100km across hitting the Earth at 20 km/sec would could immense damage.On-line Lesson: Asteroids Are Asteroids Safe? ‡ Asteroids pass through the Solar System in their orbits. . the results would be very serious. ‡ If an asteroid was deflected from its orbit onto a path that intersected that of the Earth.

On-line Lesson: Asteroids Have they hit us before ? Many scientists believe that asteroids have hit the Earth many times in its history. Artists impression of a giant asteroid impact ‡ .

‡ An event of this kind may have caused the atmospheric and climatic disturbance which led to the destruction of the dinosaurs. .On-line Lesson: Asteroids ‡ Because the effect of such a collision would be so dramatic. the signs of this can be seen in the geological record sometimes as huge craters.