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Image of an asteroid.

Asteroids
Asteroids are chunks of rock orbiting the Sun. This one is Ida, and it is about 30 miles long. Most of the asteroids, like Ida, move in circular orbits between the planets Mars and Jupiter. These asteroids will never collide with Earth. However, a few asteroids move in elliptical orbits which cross the orbits of the other planets, including the Earth. Below are four radar images of one of those "Earth-crossing" asteroids. Above: Galileo image of Ioa. Image courtesy of Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Below: Asteroid Toutatis. Image courtesy of NSSDC.

Image of four Earth-crossing asteroids.

This is the double asteroid Toutatis. Like all of the known asteroids whose orbits cross the Earth's, the two pieces of Toutatis are quite small --only a few miles across. But more Earth-crossing asteroids are found every year, and being hit by even a "small" asteroid "only" a mile across would be a major disaster! (The asteroid that made Meteor Crater was only about 50 feet across!) In the case of Toutatis, the impact would produce a double crater like other double or chain craters already found on the Earth.

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Giant Impacts
A Global Disaster!
Craters on the Moon and Planets
Craters on Earth
Can They Hit?
Image of a star. Asteroids
  Comets
 
             
     
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Giant Impacts | A Global Disaster! | Craters on the Moon and Planets | Craters on Earth | Can They Hit? | Asteroids | Comets

Giant Impact | Super Nova | Disease | Volcanoes | Orbital Changes | Meet the Dinosaurs | Into the Future

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Last updated on
April 28, 2005

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