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One of the many small celestial bodies revolving around the sun, most of the orbits being between those of Mars and Jupiter. Also called planetoid, minor planet . See planet.
The term minor planet is preferred by many astronomers but asteroid continues to be used in astronomical literature, especially attributively, as in asteroid belt.
All asteroids with determined orbits (except for a few discovered during World War II) are numbered for identification in the order of their discovery. The Ephemerides of the Minor Planets published by the U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences lists all numbered asteroids, data concerning them, and their predicted positions. The daily positions of the first four minor planets are tabulated in the American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac. Orbits have been determined for approximately 1700 asteroids. Asteroids have names as well as numbers, see Table I. The names are usually feminine but masculine names have been used for asteroids closer to or farther away from the Sun than the majority. The first asteroid to be given a masculine name, Eros (number 443) was the first to be discovered inside the orbit of Mars. The Trojan asteroids, named for heroes of the Trojan war, are in the orbit of Jupiter.


This article is based on NASA's Dictionary of Technical Terms for Aerospace Use