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The Asteroids

Asteroids of our inner solar system

These diagrams show the positions of all numbered asteroids and comets within the orbit of Jupiter as of April 1, 2005. Asteroids are yellow dots; comets are white, sunward-pointing arrowheads. The diagram above is the inner solar system seen edge-on from the ecliptic plane; on the next page, the view is from above. Courtesy P. Chodas (NASA/JPL).




This entire page and website have been excerpted from "You and the Universe," a personalized fine art book on astrology, mythology and astronomy through which is woven each recipient's complete astrological reading. The above diagram is found on page 99.

In 1766 the German astronomers Titius and Bode proposed that the orbits of planets increased in a predictable formula as you went outward from the Sun. When Uranus was discovered in 1781 at a distance very close to their formula’s prediction, it was taken as strong evidence of the correctness of "Bode’s Law." Between Mars and Jupiter, however, was a gap where a planet ought to be. Some astronomers were so convinced of a missing planet that they agreed to undertake a systematic search for it.

In 1801 Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the missing "planet", which he named Ceres after the Roman goddess of grain and the patron goddess of Sicily. Ironically, he was not part of this search, and in fact thought he had discovered a comet. His discovery was followed over the next six years by three more "planets" at a similar distance from the Sun: Pallas, Juno, and Vesta. Thus the hoped for solution to the missing planet problem gave rise instead to a long-lived - but no longer generally accepted - idea that the asteroids were remnants of an exploded planet.

Although Juno was the third asteroid discovered, it is 16th in size. There are thought to be 1 million asteroids larger than 1 km. in diameter, and 7 larger than 200 miles in diameter. Ceres, originally the largest, is about 600 miles in diameter. In 2002, however, four objects estimated at 550 to 800 miles in diameter were discovered at Pluto’s distance from the Sun. The largest, 2002 LM60 ("Quaoar") is larger than all the asteroids combined, and is the largest solar system find since Pluto’s discovery in 1930. Then in August 2005 a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) even larger than Pluto was discovered. About 1800 miles in diameter (25% larger than Pluto), 2003 UB313 may be the tenth planet of our solar system (see pg. 138 in "You and the Universe").

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