The primary reason that planetary scientists study asteroids, comets and meteoroids is because it helps them to understand the early formation of the solar system. Additionally, it is important to understand what happens when asteroids or meteoroids collide with the Earth or other planets, as such events have been important factors in the history of the planet.Continue Reading
Asteroids formed at about the same time as the solar system did. Jupiter formed very early in the history of the solar system, and its incredible size and the accompanying gravity this size creates caused the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars to form. Without Jupiter’s gravitational influence, these rocks would have eventually coalesced into a planet.
An asteroid is thought to have struck the Earth approximately 65 million years ago, striking the Yucatan Peninsula in present day Mexico. This asteroid impact caused an enormous explosion, which altered the Earth’s climate for years. Many paleontologists suspect that this impact was the primary cause for the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The largest known asteroid is Ceres, with a diameter of approximately 583 miles. Millions of tiny asteroids exist, but most do not have names. The smallest named asteroid, called 1991 BA, is only about 20-feet across.Learn more about Comets & Asteroids
Most of the comets that enter the solar system originate in either the Oort Cloud or the Kuiper Belt, zones containing trillions of icy and rocky bodies orbiting in the furthest reaches of the sun's influence. Gravitational perturbations or collisions occasionally cause these comets to approach Earth.Full Answer >
The asteroid belt is a region of the solar system between Mars and Jupiter where the majority of the asteroids in the solar system are found. Millions of asteroids are believed to be located in this region.Full Answer >
The majority of asteroids that scientists have formally identified reside between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Scientists call this wide swath of space the asteroid belt, and though it contains millions of objects, the combined size of all of the asteroids in the belt is smaller than the Earth’s moon.Full Answer >
Some facts about the solar system to teach children in elementary school are that it is found in the Milky Way galaxy, is approximately 4.6 billion years old and consists of the sun and different celestial objects, such as planets, moons, asteroids and comets. Although the solar system originally was made up of nine planets, now scientists consider that there are only eight planets. In 2006, the planet Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status.Full Answer >