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Solar System Explanation ::-- Sun|| Solar Planet || Mercury Planet || Jupitor Planet || Venus Planet || Earth Planet || Uranus Planet || Saturn Planet || Mars Planet || Neptune Planet || Dwarf Planet || Astroids || Comet ||

Asteroids are a class of small Solar System bodies in orbit around the Sun. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones. These terms have historically been applied to any astronomical object orbiting the Sun that did not show the disk of a planet and was not observed to have the characteristics of an active comet, but as small objects in the outer Solar System were discovered, their volatile-based surfaces were found to more closely resemble comets, and so were often distinguished from traditional asteroids. Thus the term asteroid has come increasingly to refer specifically to the small rocky and metallic bodies of the inner Solar System out to the orbit of Jupiter. They are grouped with the outer bodies—centaurs, Neptune trojans, and trans-Neptunian objects—as minor planets, which is the term preferred in astronomical circles. This article will restrict the use of the term 'asteroid' to the minor planets of the inner Solar System.
There are millions of asteroids, many thought to be the shattered remnants of planetesimals, bodies within the young Sun’s solar nebula that never grew large enough to become planets. A large majority of known asteroids orbit in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter or co-orbital with Jupiter (the Jupiter Trojans). However, other orbital families exist with significant populations, including the near-Earth asteroids. Individual asteroids are classified by their characteristic spectra, with the majority falling into three main groups: C-type, S-type, and M-type. These were named after and are generally identified with carbon-rich, stony, and metallic compositions, respectively.

Asteroids Discovery

The first asteroid to be discovered, Ceres, was found in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi, and was originally considered to be a new planet.This was followed by the discovery of other similar bodies, which with the equipment of the time appeared to be points of light, like stars, showing little or no planetary disc, though readily distinguishable from stars due to their apparent motions. This prompted the astronomer Sir William Herschel to propose the term "asteroid", from Greek αστεροειδής, asteroeidēs 'star-like, star-shaped', from ancient Greek αστήρ, astēr 'star, planet'. In the early second half of the nineteenth century, the terms "asteroid" and "planet" (not always qualified as "minor") were still used interchangeably; for example, the Annual of Scientific Discovery for 1871, page 316, reads "Professor J. Watson has been awarded by the Paris Academy of Sciences, the astronomical prize, Lalande foundation, for the discovery of eight new asteroids in one year. The planet Lydia (No. 110), discovered by M. Borelly at the Marseilles Observatory [...] M. Borelly had previously discovered two planets bearing the numbers 91 and 99 in the system of asteroids revolving between Mars and Jupiter".

Distribution within the Solar System

Various dynamical groups of asteroids have been discovered orbiting in the inner Solar System. Their orbits are perturbed by the gravity of other bodies in the Solar System and by the Yarkovsky effect. Significant populations include:

Asteroid belt

The majority of known asteroids orbit within the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, generally in relatively low-eccentricity (i.e., not very elongated) orbits. This belt is now estimated to contain between 1.1 and 1.9 million asteroids larger than 1 km (0.6 mi) in diameter, and millions of smaller ones. These asteroids may be remnants of the protoplanetary disk, and in this region the accretion of planetesimals into planets during the formative period of the Solar System was prevented by large gravitational perturbations by Jupiter.


Trojan asteroids are a population that share an orbit with a larger planet or moon, but do not collide with it because they orbit in one of the two Lagrangian points of stability, L4 and L5, which lie 60° ahead of and behind the larger body.
The most significant population of Trojan asteroids are the Jupiter Trojans. Although fewer Jupiter Trojans have been discovered as of 2010, it is thought that they are as numerous as the asteroids in the asteroid belt.
A couple trojans have also been found orbiting with Mars.

Near-Earth asteroids

Near-Earth asteroids, or NEAs, are asteroids that have orbits that pass close to that of Earth. Asteroids that actually cross the Earth's orbital path are known as Earth-crossers. As of May 2010, 7,075 near-Earth asteroids are known and the number over one kilometre in diameter is estimated to be 500–1,000.


Asteroids Size distribution

Asteroids vary greatly in size, from almost 1000 kilometres for the largest down to rocks just tens of metres across. The three largest are very much like miniature planets: they are roughly spherical, have at least partly differentiated interiors, and are thought to be surviving protoplanets. The vast majority, however, are much smaller and are irregularly shaped; they are thought to be either surviving planetesimals or fragments of larger bodies.
The dwarf planet Ceres is by far the largest asteroid, with a diameter of 975 km. The next largest are 2 Pallas and 4 Vesta, both with diameters of just over 500 km . Vesta is the only main-belt asteroid that can, on occasion, be visible to the naked eye. On some rare occasions, a near-Earth asteroid may briefly become visible without technical aid; see 99942 Apophis.
The mass of all the objects of the asteroid belt, lying between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, is estimated to be about 2.8-3.2×1021 kg, or about 4 percent of the mass of the Moon. Of this, Ceres comprises 0.95×1021 kg, a third of the total. Adding in the next three most massive objects, Vesta (9%), Pallas (7%), and Hygiea (3%), brings this figure up to 51%; while the three after that, 511 Davida (1.2%), 704 Interamnia (1.0%), and 52 Europa (0.9%), only add another 3% to the total mass. The number of asteroids then increases rapidly as their individual masses decrease.
The number of asteroids decreases markedly with size. Although this generally follows a power law, there are 'bumps' at 5 km and 100 km, where more asteroids than expected from a logarithmic distribution are found.

Asteroids Rotation

Measurements of the rotation rates of large asteroids in the asteroid belt show that there is an upper limit. No asteroid with a diameter larger than 100 meters has a rotation period smaller than 2.2 hours. For asteroids rotating faster than approximately this rate, the inertia at the surface is greater than the gravitational force, so any loose surface material would be flung out. However, a solid object should be able to rotate much more rapidly. This suggests that most asteroids with a diameter over 100 meters are rubble piles formed through accumulation of debris after collisions between asteroids.