Have you ever wanted to learn more about those giant space rocks we call asteroids? Here are 10 fascinating facts about asteroids that might surprise you.
Are you fascinated by the mysteries of space and the solar system?
People tend to talk about the planets and the stars, but they rarely talk about asteroids.
If you ever wonder about what mysteries surround asteroids, then you’re going to enjoy learning these 10 fascinating facts.
1. The Belt
Asteroids might orbit everywhere in the Solar System, but there’s a large collection of them in between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars.
The asteroid grouping gets the name “Main Asteroid Belt.” Many of these asteroids are relatively small in size, ranging from the size of a boulder to a few thousand feet.
They might seem like many Asteroids floating around, but scientists believe all of their masses combined are less than the mass of the moon.
The low mass of asteroids prevents them from forming into planets. In fact, astronomers believe the proximity to Jupiter prevents asteroids from colliding and they cannot form into planets.
2. Not All Asteroids are the Same
Despite what people might think, asteroids have different compositions. Their composition depends on how close they are to the sun.
NASA has classified the types of asteroids as follows:
- Dark C (carbonaceous) are the most common asteroids found in the outer belt. Their composition is similar to the sun’s because it contains little hydrogen and helium and it also other “volatile” components.
- Bright S (silicaceous) these orbit in the inner belt. They’re composed up of metallic iron and have traces of iron and magnesium.
- Bright M (metallic) asteroids orbit in the middle of the belt. Metallic iron makes up this type of asteroid for the most part.
3. 600,000 Asteroids on Record
Of course, there’s no telling how many millions of asteroids are in our solar system.
Scientists have spent their careers studying these bodies. They have discovered over 600,000 asteroids in our solar system.
4. Asteroids Have Moons
Out of all the facts about asteroids, this one is surprising because people associate moons with planets.
However, asteroids also have moon-like smaller bodies that gravitate around them.
Scientists have classified over 150 asteroids with moons. The first asteroid with a moon, Dactyl, appeared on the radar in 1933. This moon orbits around the asteroid called Ida.
Astronomers constantly find new asteroids with moons. In 2015, scientists detected an asteroid with a moon that passed 750,000 miles from earth.
In 2015, NASA conducted some observations of the asteroid Vesta. Prior to these new observations, scientists believed Vesta was incapable of holding water.
The surface showed signs of being dry and the low temperatures and pressures made it impossible to hold water.
However, the new studies showed gullies, which they believe to have been formed by water.
One theory says it happens when a large asteroid hits a smaller one and causes the small one to break off a layer of ice. The impact is so strong it causes the ice to melt.
This asteroid’s discovery took place in 1801. Giuseppe Piazzi discovered it and gave it the name of Ceres.
Ceres orbits between Jupiter and Mars and it’s the largest asteroid on record in all of the solar system. It’s so large compared to other asteroids it makes up one-fourth of the total combined mass of asteroids.
It also got the name of the dwarf planet due to its almost-planet size. In 2015, Ceres became the first dwarf planet to have a spacecraft land on its surface.
7. The Dinosaur Theory
Out of all the facts about asteroids, this one has been fascinating people for generations.
Although there are a few possible theories for the extinction of dinosaurs, the asteroid theory is a relevant one.
It all starts with the element called iridium, which is super uncommon to find on earth, but it’s a common element in asteroids.
A crater dated to be around 65 million years old located in the Yucatan Penisula contained large quantities of iridium.
The dinosaur fossils studies by scientists show their disappearance happened around 65 to 66 million years ago. This plus other factors contribute to the theory of asteroids killing off all the dinosaurs.
8. Too Small to Support Life
Out of all the facts about asteroids, this one appears to be a well-known fact. Scientists are always trying to find evidence of which bodies are able to support life but to their disappointment, asteroids aren’t one of them.
Asteroids are unable to support life for a few reasons. Their small size, compared to other bodies in space, makes it impossible for them to hold on to any sort of atmosphere.
They are oddly shaped because their gravity is too weak and prevents them from shaping their form into a perfect sphere.
9. Near-Earth Asteroids
A large asteroid crashing on the surface of the earth is often seen in movies or talked about in popular culture. In reality, most of these space bodies don’t come close to earth’s surface.
Near-earth asteroids are those that come within 28 million miles from Earth. Although that seems like a far distance, they have the name near-Earth asteroids.
It is estimated to be around 16,209 near-Earth asteroids, and out of that number, only 1,803 hold a potential to be hazardous to Earth.
10. Asteroids Have Rings
Chariklo is an asteroid discovered in 2013 as they watched it pass near a star.
This asteroid is 154 miles in diameter and orbits Uranus and Saturn.
When Chariko passed in front of the star, which is called occultation, the star’s light flickered. Astronomers used seven telescopes to capture the event.
They were hoping to get some measurements and other studies when they discovered the asteroid had two rings surrounding it.
Did You Enjoy the Facts About Asteroids?
Asteroids are fascinating bodies that orbit in our solar system. Each day astronomers discover new fascinating facts about them.
With millions of them orbiting the solar system, it’s only fair to give them the proper mention.
If you enjoyed these facts about asteroids and would like to learn more about our solar system, feel free to check out some other solar system facts!