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8 Flora

A rocky asteroid that orbits within the inner edge of the Solar System's main Asteroid Belt. Indeed, it is the innermost of all the major asteroids within the Belt, and its orbital path can approach that of Mars to within about 50 million kilometres. The major asteroids are generally named for Greek goddesses and heroines, and Flora is no exception: the name comes from the Greek goddess of blossoming flowers.

Flora is a slightly flattened spheroid in shape, with a mean diameter of some 128 kilometres. It is notable as being the most significant member of the Florian Family, a group of asteroids thought to originate from a single larger body that broke apart some 100 to 200 million years in the past. Much of this material aggregated around the solid core (the likely origin of Flora itself) while the rest was scattered as stony asteroids throughout the inner parts of the Asteroid Belt. (The largest of these fragments other than Flora itself is identified as Ariadne, while the remainder are minor bodies, typically no more than a few kilometres in diameter.)

It has been hypothesised that the event that broke apart Flora and its Family had a significant effect on life on Earth. Evidence on this point is not yet conclusive, but there is reason to think that it one of the fragments of this Family escaped from the Asteroid Belt and impacted Earth some 65 million years ago, causing (or at least contributing to) the extinction of the dinosaurs.


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