What Are Asteroids Made Of?

by Jerry Coffey on August 17, 2009

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An artists impression of an asteroid belt(credit: NASA)

An artists impression of an asteroid belt(credit: NASA)

What are asteroids made of? That is a very interesting question and if you are asking that it shows that you have a very keen and curious mind. Asteroids are made of different minerals and substances. Their composition depends on which planet they may have originated from. Many asteroids are the result of larger asteroids hitting planets or each other during the fiery beginnings of the Solar System. The chemical reactions that they have undergone over the millenia also effects their composition. The asteroids that are nearest the Sun are mostly made of carbon while the ones further away are made up of silicate rock. The metallic asteroids are composed of up to 80% iron and 20% a mixture of nickel, iridium, palladium, platinum, gold, and other precious metals. There are those few that are made up of half silicate and half metallic.

What are asteroids made of? Well, that depends on which class they are. There are four major classes of asteroids: C type, D type, S type, and V type. Each has a different composition and position in the universe.

C type are found in the outer areas of the main belt and are darker and more carbonaceous the the S type.

S type are found in the inner area of the main belt, closer to Mars, and are composed of mostly stone and iron.

D type are also known as the Trojan asteroids of Jupiter and are dark and carbonaceous in nature.

V type are a far out group. They hang out between the orbits of Jupiter and Uranus and are made of igneous, eruptive materials.

Now that you know what are asteroids made of, here a couple of interesting facts about them.:

All asteroids are covered in space dust called regolith. This dust is usually a rocky rubble more than dust. It is the result of the constant collisions the asteroids undergo in space. The larger asteroid usually wins n these collisions and ends up covered in the rubble of the loser.

Some asteroids have moons of their own. The spacecraft Galileo first discovered an asteroid with a moon in 1993 when it flew by the asteroid 243 Ida.

Asteroids like to group together in the solar system. There are four main groups of asteroids. There are the main belt, the Kuipers, the Trojans, and the scattered disc. Theoretically there is a fifth group called the Oort cloud, but it is too far out into space to be studied.

Near Earth asteroids are monitored by NASA’a Sentry and NEAT programs.

Hopefully this article has given you the information that you wanted about what are asteroids made of and a few interesting facts that you can impress your friends with. The more that asteroids are studied, the more that astronomers find that they need to learn about them.

Here on Universe Today we have some good articles on interesting facts about asteroids and what the difference is between and asteroids and comets. Astronomy Cast has a great episode on sky surveys.

Reference:
NASA

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