Near-Earth Asteroids

Rocky objects orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, but some come much closer to our planet. 

Major collisions are exceedingly rare, but are capable of causing global catastrophes. So scientists are using state-of-the-art technology to track all near-Earth asteroids. Find out how they calculate the probability of a collision, how future impacts might be mitigated, and what impact craters and specimens tell us. Meteorites like the 4.5-billion-year-old asteroid fragment that was recently added to the Museum's collection provide important clues about the early stages of our solar system. 

Video Did an asteroid kill the dinosaurs? An extinction mystery explained by paleontologist Aki Watanabe. Video How do we know an asteroid hit Earth 66 million years ago? Astrophysicist Jackie Faherty explains how physics and geology solved a paleontological mystery. Video What Happens When Large Meteorites Fall to Earth? See and hear a meteorite breaking the sound barrier. Video Why Are There No Planets in the Asteroid Belt? A closer look at the motherlode of meteorites. Video What Were the Biggest Asteroids to Hit Earth? Impacts that changed the course of life on Earth. Video Meteorite, Meteor: What's the Difference? What to look for the next time a brilliant object falls from the sky. Video What Is an Asteroid? Rocks from space provide give insight to the origins of our solar system. Video How Can Asteroids Be Deflected? How scientists are planning to run interference for near-earth objects. Blog Post Museum Receives Piece of Rare Meteorite in Joint Acquisition A rare meteorite that exploded over California in 2012 has been acquired through in collaboration with five US institutions. August 21, 2013 Video Tracking Near-Earth Asteroids Most asteroids and comets don't pass anywhere near Earth. Most. Blog Post Scientists Track Remarkable Asteroid Crash For the first time, scientists have discovered meteorites from a previously tracked asteroid in space after fragments landed in the... April 6, 2009 Article In Hot Pursuit of Asteroids Given the potential for asteroids to literally and figuratively impact life on Earth in a profound way, asteroids have been quite... Blog Post Meteor, Meteorite, Asteroid: What's the Difference? What's the difference between a meteor, a meteorite, and an asteroid? February 15, 2013 Article Probability and 2004 MN4: A New Drama In 2004, news of Asteroid MN4 arrived: in summary, there was a 1-in-233 chance of the worst disaster in recorded history. Blog Post How Do Researchers Track Near-Earth Asteroids? Later today, an asteroid designated 2012 DA14 will pass just 17,200 miles over Earth’s surface. Although this 150-foot space rock... February 15, 2013 Exhibit What We Learn From Meteorites The most important clues about the early stages of the solar system come from meteorites. Video How Are Large Asteroids Tracked? See how astronomers follow potential earth-crossers. Blog Post SKY REPORTER: Record Setting Asteroid Encounter Highlights for February 2013, including information about the 2012 DA14 asteroid encounter. February 1, 2013 Article Profile: Ernst Chladni and Rocks from the Sky The notion that enormous rocks exist within our solar system—and that some fall to Earth—once garnered ridicule. Blog Post Museum Scientists Analyze Recently Fallen Meteorites with 3D Scans Recently fallen meteorites are carbonaceous chondrites, which contain some of the oldest material in the solar system. December 20, 2012 Article Interview with Denton Ebel Meteorite specialist Dr. Denton Ebel talks asteroids bigger than Everest, glass mini-marbles raining from the sky, and dinosaur toast.

Support for the development of Science Topics was generously provided by Sidney and Helaine Lerner, GRACE Communications Foundation.