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The first asteroid ever discovered - Carrie Nugent

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Over the course of history, we’ve discovered hundreds of thousands of asteroids. But how do astronomers discover these bits of rock and metal? How many have they found? And how do they tell asteroids apart? Carrie Nugent shares the story of the very first asteroid ever discovered and explains how asteroid hunters search for these celestial bodies.

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TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Carrie Nugent
  • Director Biljana Labovic
  • Animator Reza Riahi
  • Designer Reza Riahi
  • Composer Nicolas Martigne
  • Sound Designer Nicolas Martigne
  • Photographer NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
  • Associate Producer Jessica Ruby
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman

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Additional Resources for you to Explore
Join Dr. Nugent on an adventure deep into asteroid country by reading Asteroid Hunters. She’ll reveal what known impact asteroids have had: the extinction of the dinosaurs, the Earth-sized scar Shoemaker-Levy 9 left in Jupiter, how the surprise hit on Chelyabinsk in Russia startled the world, and how an unlucky Ms. Ann Hodges had the extraordinary experience of being struck by a small meteorite.

Through Dr. Nugent’s journey, readers will meet the global community of asteroid hunters and learn their key rules for asteroid hunting. Ultimately, Dr. Nugent proves that even the most fantastic of disasters is something we can prepare for, and that the hunt for asteroids could mean nothing less than saving life on Earth.


Find all this fascinating? Looking for a glimpse into current space research? Each week on this podcast: Spacepod, Dr. Nugent shares a drink with a scientist or engineer who explores space, and she chats about their work. Episodes having to do with asteroids can be found here.

NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office is the NASA office concerned with potentially hazardous objects (PHOs), which are defined as the asteroids or comets whose orbits get within 0.05 AU (an astronomical unit, the average distance between the Earth and the Sun) of Earth's orbit and are above a certain size. They are responsible for the early detection of PHOs, tracking and characterizing PHOs, providing timely and accurate communications about PHOs and coordinating the US government planning for a response in the case of an actual impact threat.

At the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies learn about near-Earth asteroids and comets, and see which objects will be making close approaches to Earth.

You can also visit the Minor Planet Center, the designated archive for positional measurements of asteroids and comets. The Minor Planet Center also determines orbits and decides when a new asteroid has been discovered. The front page has latest stats on asteroid discoveries.

The International Asteroid Warning Network is a United Nations-sanctioned organization of asteroid observers, orbit computers, physical property specialists and other scientists and communications experts that study near-Earth objects. 

Photography by NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

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Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

About TED-Ed Originals

TED-Ed Original lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed original? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Carrie Nugent
  • Director Biljana Labovic
  • Animator Reza Riahi
  • Designer Reza Riahi
  • Composer Nicolas Martigne
  • Sound Designer Nicolas Martigne
  • Photographer NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
  • Associate Producer Jessica Ruby
  • Content Producer Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman

Share

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