Asteroids galore

It’s time to update my lecture notes.

Based on information from probably about ten years ago, my PowerPoint presentation for the Physical Science unit on asteroids says that there are a total of about 6000 asteroids. I’m off by a whole bunch. According to the Wikipedia article on asteroids, they are now being discovered at a rate of about 5000 per month (thanks to automated sky searches) and the total is up to over 330,000. It is estimated that there may be between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 asteroids with diameters of over 1 km.

One of the really interesting things about asteroids is their names. They ran out of names from Greek and Roman mythology (Ceres, Pallas, Icarus, etc…) a long time ago, and the discoverers now have a considerable amount of freedom in naming asteroids. The official names include numbers indicating the order of discovery: 1 Ceres was the first discovered; 1896 Beer was the 1896th discovered, and so on. Most asteroids only have numbers, as only about 13,000 have official, approved names.

Some interesting asteroid names: Bach, Beatles (as well as Lennon, McCartney, Starr, and Harrison), Beer, Beethoven, Bonhoeffer, Cheshirecat, Confucius, Einstein, James Bond, Karl Marx, Martin Luther, Montana, and Mr. Spock. Many more are named after the discovers, or their wives, children, pets, and so on.

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