What most know about asteroids comes from the movies, where they are a constant threat to life on Earth. In most cases, they end up destroyed by the hero of the story and our planet is saved, once again, from destruction.
In real life, these space missiles are more intriguing than in the seventh art. That is why June 30 was established as Asteroid Day, choosing this date to commemorate an event that, in 1908, shocked the scientific world.
The difference between meteorite and asteroid
Inactive rocky bodies orbiting the Sun are known as asteroids. Comets are similar, but they are made up of ice and rocks, and usually have a “tail” made up of dust and gas.
Meteoroids are particles that break off from comets or asteroids. If one of them survives its passage through the atmosphere and hits the Earth, its name changes to a meteorite. Finally, the meteor (or shooting star) is the light phenomenon that we see when meteoroids evaporate in the atmosphere.
The first asteroid in history
Ceres, a dwarf planet, is considered to be the first asteroid documented by man. It was discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801.
They are more common (and famous) than we think
To date there are more than 600,000 asteroids in our Solar System. There are even some that are named after celebrities, like Audrey Hepburn , Alfred Hitchcock , and Freddie Mercury !
The Asteroid Belt
Most of these rocky bodies are concentrated in a series of rings between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Its true meaning
The word asteroid was coined by astronomer William Herschel and means “star shape”.
They can be gigantic or really small
Ceres is also the largest asteroid we know of, with a diameter of 933 kilometers. At the opposite pole is BA, the smallest asteroid, only 6 meters wide.
Building blocks of the whole world
Certain scientific theories consider that asteroids are “planetisimals”, pieces that were never incorporated into the eight planets of our Solar System.
They have a very strange shape
Most asteroids are irregularly shaped because they are so small that they don’t generate enough gravitational force to mold themselves in an aesthetic way.
No, not everyone is a threat to our lives.
It is estimated that a meteoroid the size of a car falls into our atmosphere at least once a year. However, most are disintegrated before hitting the Earth.
There is one that could kill us
Scientists estimate that asteroid Bennu has between 1 and 2,700 chances of crashing into Earth sometime in the 22nd century. It would hit Earth with the force of 1,200 megatons of kinetic energy (about 80,000 Hiroshima bombs).
Some emergency options are already being contemplated to deal with Bennu. Among the plans is to send a giant ship to divert the asteroid or even destroy it with a nuclear bomb.