Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Asteroids - Vermin Of The Skies
Asteroids, also called minor planets or planetoids. They are so numerous that they have earned the name 'Vermin of the Skies'. Hundreds of thousands of asteroids have been discovered within the solar system and the present rate of discovery is about 5000 per month. The largest is Ceres, 1003 km (623 miles) in diameter, followed by Pallas at 608 km (378 miles) and Vesta at 538 km (334 miles). Only Vesta occasionally comes close enough to Earth to become visible - if only just - to the naked eye.
Asteriods were originally given classical names, but as more have been discovered, more inventive names have been devised. Asteroid number 694 is called 'Ekard' - its orbit was computed by students of Drake University, Iowa, and Ekard is Drake reversed. Asteroid 1625 is called 'The NORC', after an early electronic computer, the Naval Ordnance Research Calculator. 'Hapag' is named after a German shipping line, the Hamburg-Amerika Packetfahrt Aktien Gesellschaft. 'Bettina' is named after the wife of Baron Albert von Rothschild, who bought the right to name the asteroid. Four asteroids discovered in the 1980s have been named after the members of the Beatles.