I had a great time teaching "Outer Space Week" for Summer 2023 Art Camp at Flydragon Art Studio. In addition to spacecraft sculptures, nebula paint-pouring, and black hole paintings; we created asteroids out of clay. We learned about the five largest bodies in the asteroid belt: Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, Hygiea, and Juno. The asteroid belt is located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. When these celestial bodies were first discovered by astronomers in the early 1800s, they were believed to be planets.
These five asteroids are named after ancient goddesses--each of whom symbolize a unique aspect of life on Earth. For example, Ceres is the goddess of the harvest, and also happens to be the largest object in the asteroid belt (it is actually a dwarf planet). Its superior size, presence of water, and highly reflective (sparkly) Occator Crater, made Ceres the most popular asteroid in class. When asked why he chose Ceres as his asteroid, Brecken, age 7, responded "because Ceres represents bread and I love donuts!"
Vesta, the brightest and second largest asteroid, was also popular. As goddess of home and hearth, students who enjoy tending the campfire had natural affinities for this asteroid. In addition, Vesta is home to two of the largest chasms in the solar system--bigger than the grand canyon, these chasms on such a small celestial body are awe inspiring. Pallas, third largest, with its high orbital inclination, allows it to make unique conjunctions with solar objects like Sirius, the dog star. Pallas is the goddess of creativity and strategic combat. With its complex symbolism and wacky orbit, Pallas inspired a few indeed. Hygiea, the fourth largest, is the goddess of health. Compared to the other four asteroids, Hygiea was last to be discovered due to its dark surface and position in the outer belt region. One student who chose Hygiea liked that it was the hardest to see; while another chose Hygiea because it represented having a healthy body. Juno, goddess of marriage, is the smallest of the five, yet because its surface is highly reflective, it is a very bright asteroid. There were quite a few small-but-mighty Junos in the bunch!