DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DETLEV VAN RAVENSWAAY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Asteroid passing Jupiter, artwork. Asteroids are large rocks left over after the solar system formed. They mostly have a diameter of less than a hundred kilometres. Most of the thousands of asteroids in the solar system lie in the asteroid belt between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter. It is thought that the gravitational influence of Jupiter prevented a planet forming in the asteroid belt. The four largest Jovian moons (all seen) show evidence of asteroid impacts, and it is thought that Jupiter's large mass attracts many rogue comets and asteroids, and so protects Earth from more frequent and devastating impacts.
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