DR SETH SHOSTAK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR SETH SHOSTAK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Illustration of a close encounter between the Earth and an asteroid. The asteroids are a multitude of minor planets orbiting around the Sun at distances ranging from inside the Earth's orbit to beyond Saturn's orbit. Most of them are situated in a belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. By the end of the 1980s roughly 4000 were discovered and it has been estimated that their number may exceed 40,000. One of the closest approaches of an asteroid was on October 28th 1937 when Hermes reached a distance of 800,000km from the Earth.
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