If you’re interested in learning some cool facts about asteroids, then you’re definitely in the right place! Asteroids can be one of the most misunderstood parts of the Solar System, and it can be really difficult for us to differentiate them from other objects.
However, there are some ways that we can determine an asteroid from something else.
Asteroid Facts for Kids
- An asteroid is defined as a small rocky body or object that orbits the Sun, with the majority of them found in the Asteroid belt.
- Some people refer to asteroids as “Giant Space Potatoes”. Even the people at NASA do this sometimes, as you can see with this asteroid space potatoes recipe!
- All asteroids are different, and there aren’t any two which are identical. Unlike planets, they tend to take on more rugged shapes, just like the rocks on Earth.
- Ceres is the largest asteroid, and it was also the first asteroid discovered. It’s one of the five dwarf planets, and has a 473km radius.
- There’s estimated to be anywhere between 1 and 2 million asteroids in the Asteroid belt.
- Both asteroids and comets are essentially the leftovers of from when our solar system formed billions of years ago.
- Just like planets, asteroids can also have smaller moons that orbit them.
- The main reason that asteroids aren’t capable of having life on them is that they aren’t big enough to have their own atmosphere.
- Sometimes you might see an astronomer refer to an asteroid as a planetoid, or even a minor planet.
How are asteroids classified?
When we classify asteroids, we tend to segregate them into different categories. Asteroids can be identified by their location.
- Main Asteroid belt refers to all the asteroids in the Asteroid belt, as you probably guessed. There’s more than a million of them out there.
- Trojan asteroids orbit around a planet. They are primarily associated with Jupiter, as this is where they are most prevalent. However, they’ve also been located at other planets, like Neptune, Mars and Earth.
- Near-earth asteroids are, well, exactly as they sound. There are more than 10,000 asteroids that have passed close by to Earth (yikes!). More than 1000 of these is thought to actually potentially be a problem for us.
Commonly Asked Questions about Asteroids
What are Asteroids made of?
One of the most common questions most people have about asteroids is to know what they are made of. Asteroids are typically made of rock and a mixture of different metals.
How big are asteroids?
Asteroids can range dramatically in size. Some asteroids are absolutely huge, with the obvious example being the dwarf planet Ceres, which has a diameter of 946km. On the other hand, astronomers have recorded asteroids as small as a few metres diameter. So, they can range from tiny to giant!
What are the different types of asteroid?
When we’re talking about the type, typically we are referring to the composition of an asteroid, and they’re primarily divided into three categories. Firstly, the C-type asteroid, which is made from silicate and clay rocks. Secondly, the S-types, which are made from silicate and nickel-iron. Finally, the M-types, which are primarily made of nickel-iron. There are more types of asteroid than these, but these are the most common.
Did an Asteroid kill the dinosaurs?
Although it isn’t proven, we do think that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs. The Chicxulub crater, which is located off the coast of southern Mexico, is the result of an asteroid or hitting the Earth more than 66 million years ago. We think that the result of this changed the climate of the Earth, which caused all of the non-flying dinosaurs to become extinct.
Can you live on an asteroid?
Whilst an asteroid is certainly big enough for a human to live on, it doesn’t have the same defense mechanisms that Earth does. You see, the Earth is surrounded by a layer of different gases, which make up it’s atmosphere. Nitrogen, oxygen, argon and carbon dioxide all combine together in our atmosphere, which helps to protect us from other objects like asteroids. So, it would be difficult to live on an asteroid without this defense!
In conclusion, there are many different asteroids across our solar system. NASA defines an asteroid as a small rocky object that orbits the Sun, so we tend to think of those in the Asteroid belt as asteroids, with astronomers using different terms for objects in the Kuiper belt and in the Oort cloud.