The large gap between Mars and Jupiter had puzzled astronomers for many years. For according to their calculations, a planet ought to have existed in this region.
                On January 1, 1801, the Italian astronomer, Guiseppe Piazzi, discovered a small planet in that large gap. He observed it for a few days and thought it to be the missing planet. It was named Ceres. However, Ceres was so small (less than 1300 km across), that astronomers began to wonder if it was a plannet at all!
                When further scrutiny of the sky in that region revealed more "little planets". Astronomers began calling them Asteroids, collectively. Today, they are also called Planetoids. Pallas, Juno and Vesta (the brightest asteroid which, on clear nights, can be seen without a telescope), were discovered soon after Ceres. Ever since, at least 40,000 asteroids have been found orbiting the sun in the yawning gap between Mars and Jupiter.
                 The origin of asteroids is shrouded in mystery. Some scientists think that they are the remains of an ancient planet that blew up for some reason. Others say that they are parts of a planet which never formed.
                 Few asteroids are as big as Ceres and Vesta. Most of them are only a few kilometres across. Because of their small size, their weak gravity has not been able to pull those bodies in a neat ball shape. that's why they're not spherical like the planets.
                 Scientists think that in the distant future, man will be able to use material from asteroids to build space colonies!



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