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.Know More
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
According to Yury Zaitsev, at Space Daily, an asteroid has a speed of about 55,923 miles per hour on average. Potential asteroid impacts on Earth have become a concern in recent years, with scientists suggesting the monitoring of all space objects in close proximity to the Earth.Full Answer >
Asteroid composition varies based on the asteroid's origin. An asteroid can contain rock, metal, clay, silicate, nickel, iron and water. All asteroids are covered in regolith, which is a rocky rubble. Regolith is commonly called space dust.Full Answer >
Asteroids that burned up in the atmosphere include asteroid 2014 AA and 2008 TC3. Both asteroids were spotted by telescope as they entered Earth's atmosphere, but never actually struck the surface.Full Answer >
Dozens of asteroids orbit throughout the galaxy, but the most famous are those that have impacted the Earth. Asteroids that do are best known by the major craters they leave behind. The Vredefort crater was created by an asteroid nearly two billion years ago in South Africa. The crater has a radius of 118 miles and is believed to be the largest asteroid crater.Full Answer >