Teaching overview

Learning points

  • Asteroids are rocky, planet-like objects that orbit the Sun.
  • Asteroids can have their own moons.
  • Smaller fragments of asteroids can enter the Earth’s atmosphere, where they burn up to form shooting stars.

Curriculum keywords

  • Space
  • Solar System
  • Asteroids

5 things you didn't know

What are asteroids?

1. Asteroids are rocky objects that orbit the Sun – they range in size from fewer than 10 metres across to more than 500 kilometres wide!

Discovering asteroids

2. Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi discovered the first asteroid in 1801. He named it after the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres.

Asteroids have moons

3. Like other planets in our solar system, many asteroids have one or more companion moons orbiting them!

Impact Event

4. The chances of an asteroid crashing into Earth are slim, but it can happen. This is known an Impact Event, the most well known being the asteroid that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Shooting stars

5. As asteroids orbit through space, they can collide with each other to create smaller fragments known as meteoroids. If they enter the Earth’s atmosphere, these meteoroids burn up and can be seen as shooting stars!

Spark a discussion

  • How big are asteroids?
  • How are shooting stars formed?
  • Why do you think Piazzi named the asteroid he discovered after a goddess of agriculture?

Explore our resources

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