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Asteroids, Meteorites & the Solar System

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Asteroids are massive lumps of rock that orbit the Sun. They can be anything up to 1000 kilometers wide and are sometimes described as minor planets.

Most asteroids in the Solar System lie in a belt - the Asteroid Belt - orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, but some are orbiting relatively nearby. These nearby asteroids are called Potentially Hazardous Asteroids or PHAs because they could collide with the Earth as gigantic meteorites.


Meteorites are bits of space debris which fall to the surface of a planet or moon. They are really quite common. More than a tone's worth of meteorites falls to earth every day.

Traveling at several thousand meters per second, meteorites become super-heated by friction with the Earth's atmosphere and explode on impact with the ground. A large meteorite can impact with the force of several nuclear bombs and even cause the climate to change.

It's thought that a very large meteorite caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. And a meteorite the size of a small house caused the crater below. It is over one kilometer in diameter and 200 meters deep.

The Solar System

The Solar System is our local neighborhood in space.

The Solar System is composed of the Sun and its satellites. The Sun's satellites include major bodies such as planets and countless other, minor bodies such as asteroids and comets - anything in fact that orbits the Sun.

There are presently nine planets in the Solar System. To remember their first letters in order from the Sun, remember:

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