Asteroids

On-line Lesson

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. . ‡ 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.

‡ Unlike comets.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. ‡ 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. they have no cloud of diffuse light around them. .

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 .

.2 and 3.On-line Lesson: Asteroids Where are they? ‡ Asteroids circle around the Sun in orbits that trace their origins in the Solar System. ‡ The orbits of asteroids are more or less circular and they have orbital periods of three to six years.2 astronomical units. ‡ 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.

enough observations must be taken to be able to measure the mathematical parameters of the orbit. Detection .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. ‡ To be sure that it is an asteroid rather than a planet or comet.

‡ 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. ‡ If an asteroid was deflected from its orbit onto a path that intersected that of the Earth. which can change with time as they are affected by passing planets. the results would be very serious. .

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 ‡ .

. the signs of this can be seen in the geological record sometimes as huge craters. ‡ 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.

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