What Are Asteroids?
Astronomers are always looking for new things and unusual happenings around us. Observations and calculations have given way to many discoveries.
The possibility of a planet’s presence between Mars and Jupiter was suggested by J. Kepler and later by J.E, Bode which prompted astronomers to search for it.
On January 1, 1801, an Italian astronomer G. Piazzi sighted a small planet-a very tiny one with a diameter of only 600 miles. It was named Ceres. Soon, a second one was discovered by H. Olbers. In time two more small planets were found out by other astronomers.
When instead of one big planet, four small ones were discovered, it was believed that one large planet could have been exploded or broken and divided into these four. But after a gap of fifteen years, another astronomer found one more small planet, and the hunt for more such planets started all over again. Since then the number of minor planets kept steadily increasing from 13 in .1850 to 1600 in 1950! It is now estimated that at least 100,000 planets some of which probably no more than a few hundred yards across, are to be found in this orbit. Minor planets are cataloged only when there are sufficient observations to determine a reliable orbit. These planetary bodies revolving around the sun mainly between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter are known collectively as asteroids.
Some scientists believe that these asteroids were formed when a satellite of Jupiter exploded in the distant past.