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    Dec. 31, 2018: At 2:43 p.m. EST, while many on Earth prepared to welcome the New Year, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, 70 million miles (110 million kilometers) away, carried out a single, eight-second burn of its thrusters—and broke a space exploration record.

    Animated GIF of rotating asteroid.
    Flyover of Bennu's North Pole. Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

    The spacecraft entered into orbit around the asteroid Bennu, and made Bennu the smallest object ever to be orbited by a spacecraft.

    Asteroids are rocky, airless worlds that orbit our Sun, but are too small to be called planets. Tens of thousands of these minor planets are gathered in the main asteroid belt, a vast doughnut-shaped ring between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Asteroids that pass close to Earth—and merit close watch—are called Near-Earth Objects, or NEOs.

    The current known asteroid count is: .

    Go farther. Explore Asteroids In Depth ›

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    Did You Know?

    Did You Know?

    The total mass of all the asteroids in the main asteroid belt combined is less than that of Earth's Moon.

    Kid-Friendly Asteroids

    Illustration of asteroids

    Kid-Friendly Asteroids

    Asteroids are small, rocky objects that orbit the Sun. Although asteroids orbit the Sun like planets, they are much smaller than planets.

    There are lots of asteroids in our solar system. Most of them live in the main asteroid belt—a region between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

    Some asteroids go in front of and behind Jupiter. They are called Trojans. Asteroids that come close to Earth are called Near Earth Objects, NEOs for short. NASA keeps close watch on these asteroids.

    Asteroids are left over from the formation of our solar system.

    Visit NASA Space Place for more kid-friendly facts.

    NASA Space Place: All About Asteroids ›


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