Asteroids, or minor planets, were once considered to be the ‘vermin of the solar system’. They would leave tracks of their motion on what would have been lovely photographs of galaxies and nebulae. It has only been in the last fifty years or so that their importance in studying the history of the solar system has become apparent. The first asteroid was discovered in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi, one of the ‘celestial police’. That object was given the name Ceres. Since the development of glass plate photography and now digital imaging, the discovery of these objects has become much easier. This video shows how one ‘blinks’ for asteroids. There is a system for naming newly discovered minor planets. Soon after that, three more objects were found in what was to become known as the asteroid belt. Ceres, and another large object, Vesta, are being explored by the Dawn Spacecraft. We now know of hundreds of thousands of minor planets, and here is where they are right now. Thousands of them have been named. Several of these minor planets have rock and roll names. Is your name among them? The I.A.U.’s Minor Planet Center is the official source of all information about these objects. Much has been learned in the last few decades about the physical nature of minor planets.
Carpe Caelum Planetary Astronomy