Asteroids are rocky fragments left over from the formation of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. Most of these fragments can be found orbiting the Sun in a belt between Mars and Jupiter. This region in our solar system, called the Asteroid Belt, probably contains millions of asteroids ranging widely in size from Ceres, which at 940 km in diameter is about one-quarter the diameter of our Moon, to bodies that are less than 1 km across. Giant Jupiter's gravity and occasional close encounters with Mars or other asteroid could change the orbit of asteroids knocking them out of the Main Belt into space across the orbits of the planets. The Mars moons Phobos and Deimos may be captured asteroids. Scientists believe that fragments of asteroids have slammed into Earth in the past, playing a major role both in altering the geological history of our planet and in the evolution of life on it. The extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago has been linked to a devastating impact near the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.
© Copyright Rob Kantelberg
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