Chapman, Clark R. Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona.
Last reviewed:October 2019
- Shapes, spins, and satellites
- Sizes and densities
- Surface compositions
- Surface conditions and geology
- Earth-approaching asteroids
- Origin and evolution
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
One of the many thousands of small planets (minor planets) revolving around the Sun, mainly between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The presence of a gap in J. A. Bode's empirical law of planetary spacings motivated a search for the missing planet. G. Piazzi discovered Ceres on January 1, 1801, and three other small planets were discovered in the next few years. Visual and photographic searches for additional asteroids have continued to the present day, augmented by electronic detection technology. Newly discovered ones are assigned a catalog number and name (such as 433 Eros) only after they are observed often enough to compute an accurate orbit. The Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, maintains a file of 21 million measurements of asteroid positions. The Institute for Theoretical Astronomy in St. Petersburg, Russia, publishes an annual ephemeris of predicted asteroid positions for the over 300,000 cataloged asteroids. See also: Ceres; Planet
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