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Near-Earth Asteroids

These 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. 


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

Sutter's Mill meteorite

Museum Receives Piece of Rare Meteorite in Joint Acquisition

The main mass of a rare meteorite that exploded over California’s Sierra foothills in April 2012 has been acquired through the collaborative efforts of five U.S. academic institutions, including the American Museum of Natural History.


In Hot Pursuit of Asteroids

Scientists are charting new asteroid territory in order to understand the early Solar System.

Meteorite from 2008 TC3 Asteroid

Scientists Track Remarkable Asteroid Crash

Scientists have announced that they have tracked an asteroid from space all the way to its impact on Earth, a first for astronomy. 


Impact! Tracking Near-Earth Asteroids

Most asteroids and comets don't pass anywhere near Earth. Most.

Near Earth Asteroid

Frontiers in Astrophysics: Near-Earth Objects with Donald Yeomans

In this podcast, Manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Objects program, Donald Yeomans, discusses the ongoing quest to find near-earth objects before they find us.

defending earth from asteroids with neil degrasse tyson pinboard image

Defending Earth from Asteroids with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Learn about the steps needed to deflect near-Earth asteroids.


Frontiers Lecture: Asteroids: Earth's Nearest Neighbors with Amy Mainzer

Amy Mainzer explains the origins and evolution of the smallest bodies in our solar system.


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 sought after since the first and largest one, Ceres, was discovered in 1801. Learn more.


Meteor, Meteorite, Asteroid: What's the Difference?

What's the difference between a meteor, a meteorite, and an asteroid? In the Museum's Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites, the differences are clearly explained.


Crash Course

Could a space rock destroy life on Earth? Learn more about asteroids, comets, and other space objects and what happens when they collide—with each other and with our planet. 

Professor Richard Binzel

Podcast: Frontiers in Astrophysics–Tracking Asteroids with Richard Binzel

In this podcast from spring 2012, MIT professor Richard Binzel evaluates the threat of asteroids and makes a case for how they might actually be useful to humans.

dark energy pinboard item image

Exploring the Dark Universe: Dark Energy

Dr. Mordecai-Mark Mac Low gives an overview of what we know about dark energy. 

scicafe imaging space rocks

SciCafe: Imaging Space Rocks

Scientists discuss  the 2 and 3-dimensional analysis of steroids and meteors.

Roy Tucker[2]

Probability and 2004 MN4: A New Drama

In 2004, news of Asteroid MN4 hit the blogosphere: "So, in summary, there's a 1-in-233 chance of the worst disaster in recorded history happening on April 13, 2029, and a 232-in-233 chance of nothing happening." Take a closer, scientific look.

Harzardous Asteroids

How Do Researchers Track Near-Earth Asteroids?

On February 15, 2013,  an asteroid designated 2012 DA14 passed just 17,200 miles over Earth’s surface. Although this 150-foot space rock slipped harmlessly by, researchers estimate there are nearly 500,000 near-Earth asteroids

How Did the Earth Form? What We Learn From Meteorites

What we learn from meteorites

The most important clues about the early stages of the solar system come from meteorites. Some meteorites are older than the formation of the Earth. 

How Are Large Asteroids Tracked Thumbnail

How are Large Asteroids Tracked?

See how astronomers follow potential earth-crossers. 


Profile: Ernst Chladni and Rocks from the Sky

Today, we accept the notion that enormous rocks exist within our solar system and that some of them fall to Earth. A little over 200 years ago, though, this idea garnered skepticism and ridicule.

Meteorite Fragments Denton Ebel

Museum Scientists Analyze Recently Fallen Meteorites with 3D Scans

Meteorites that fell from an asteroid impact that lit up the skies over California and Nevada in April 2012 are showing scientists just how complex an asteroid surface can be.


Museum Scientist Interview: Denton Ebel

Meteorite specialist Dr. Denton Ebel talks asteroids bigger than Everest, glass mini-marbles raining from the sky, and dinosaur toast.

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