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What causes an asteroid to loose control over it's orbit and enter in to another objects atmosphere?

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closed as too broad by called2voyage Mar 10 '14 at 18:37

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

This question appears to be off-topic because it appears to presume intention as capability of celestial bodies. – Gerald Feb 27 '14 at 20:45
@Gerald Whether or not a question is technically correct is not necessarily grounds for it to be dismissed as off-topic. The question, however, could possibly be too broad or unclear. – called2voyage Feb 27 '14 at 20:59
@called2voyage Tried to consider possible misconception in the answer. – Gerald Feb 27 '14 at 21:21
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Asteroids don't have control of their orbit. They are influenced by gravity; they obey the laws of physics.

There aren't any traffic lights for them in space to obey so they know to slow down and stop to avoid a collision with a planet. They'll just carry right on going like someone driving through a red light. If it goes right in front of a planet at the wrong moment then it gets t-boned.

Or it might miss. But here is where the analogy falls apart. Because if someone drives through a red light and misses everyone, they carry on without any subsequent repercussions (except maybe a ticket). An asteroid passing close by a planet will be influenced by gravity between the planet and the asteroid, and it's path will change. That might mean it is flung far away, or it may mean it is captured, putting it on a looping path that eventually draws it in to crash onto the planet.

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Asteroids don't have control over their orbit. The orbits are a consequence of the laws of physics.

This way asteroids can just happen to cross the orbit of an other celestial body. Products of such a collision take new orbits, which may or may not result in new collisions.

Orbits, which had been free of intersections with orbits of other bodies, may get moved away from Kepler ellipses over time by the gravitational pull of other celestial objects, e.g. planets like Jupiter or even by stars lightyears away. An orbit can also leave its ellipsis within a short time due to a close encounter with a planet.

Orbits around a planet can decay e.g. due to uneven mass distribution on the planet.

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