Tour Locations | Highlights from the Virtual Solar System Drive with Fred Watson
Fred, we're coming up to a site you'd like to point out. Timor Rock. Why is it so interesting?
[Fred] - It's interesting from many perspectives. Timor Rock is a volcanic neck. It's the remnant of the Warrumbingle Volcanoes that were active 13 million years ago. The surrounding material has been eroded away leaving this column of basaltic material, which is very striking as you drive past it.
But it also turns out that the large rock expanse is in the position where the asteroid belt would be on the virtual solar system tour. 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 of them are not much bigger than Timor Rock itself and the biggest of them is actually a dwarf planet.
Asteroids are left over from the formation of our solar system, which was formed about 4.6 billion years ago, with a swirling disk of dust. This gradually coalesced, compacting together to make bigger and bigger objects until eventually the planets were built. But the leftover debris from that process is what occupies that space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and known as the asteroid belt.
Some asteroids go in front of and behind Jupiter. They are called Trojans. Asteroids that come close to Earth are called Near Earth Objects or NEOs for short. NASA keeps a close watch on these asteroids.