Science Teaching Series

Internet Resources

I. Developing Scientific Literacy

II. Developing Scientific Reasoning

III. Developing Scientific Understanding

IV. Developing Scientific Problem Solving

V. Developing Scientific Research Skills

VI. Resources for Teaching Science

Activity 19.4.2 – Analyzing asteroids

Aasteroidsteroids (Table 19.10A) are rocky or metallic objects that orbit the Sun, but are much smaller than planets.  Most asteroids orbit the Sun in a belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, but some have eccentric orbits, and occasionally one has an orbit that intersects the orbit of earth.  The Barringer meteor crater near Winslow, Arizona (figure 19.10B), is evidence of such a path!  Table 19.10C lists the largest asteroids, their date of discovery, distance from the sun (in astronomic units (au); 1 au=distance from the Sun to Earth), and orbital period (years). This file can be downloaded from

(1) Is there any relationship between the distance from the Sun, and the time it takes to orbit (orbital period)?  Explain.  To see if such a relationship exists, sort the asteroids in ascending order of distance from the Sun and look for trends in orbital period.

(2) Is their any relationship between the size of an asteroid and its date of discovery?  Explain.  Sort asteroids in ascending order of discovery date and compare with diameter.

NASA. (1997). Asteroid (253) Mathilde.  Photo taken June 27, 1997 by the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft. (Photo courtesy of NASA, public domain image).

NASA. (1982). The Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona seen from space. Photo taken December 14, 1982 by the Landsat satellite. (Photo courtesy of NASA, public domain image).