Asteroids are also known as minor planets.

These are relatively small bodies that orbit the Sun. In the early days of Solar System astronomy, it was believed that they existed in the space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. As knowledge progressed, asteroids (or minor planets or planetoids as they are also known) have been found throughout the Solar System. The Trojan Asteroid follow the orbit of Jupiter, one group ahead and one group following.

They are though to be material of the Solar System that never accreted to form a planet. There are others who believe that they are the remains of a somehow destroyed planet that lay between Mars and Jupiter.

In recent years it has been realised that there are a number of asteroids that cross the orbit of the Earth. Some of these are quite large and would cause great problems if they impacted the Earth. Life on this planet could conceivable be eradicated by a large enough impact. It is now generally accepted that mass extinctions of life in the past e.g. the demise of the dinosaurs, could have been caused by such an impact. There is now an observing programme to locate and evaluate the dangers of this hazard (NEAR). I have put some links to books on the subject below.

A more comprehensive treatment of asteroids can be found at

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