The asteroid belt is an area in space located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter in which most of the asteroids in the Solar System, probably millions of them and of different sizes are orbiting the sun.
It is also known by the name of the main belt to be able to make a correct distinction between it and the minor bodies in the solar system. We also find within the belt the dwarf planet called Ceres.
What is the asteroid belt?
The asteroid belt is an area found in outer space between Mars and Jupiter where thousands of asteroids are located and are of different sizes and shapes, and where we also find the dwarf planet Ceres.
Origin of the asteroid belt:
During the 18th century, astronomers created a pattern in the orbits of various planets that gave rise to the Titius-Bode law , which stated the amount of space that existed between their planets.
In addition to this observation, they realized that there were large and small objects that orbited between Mars and Jupiter, and from this, the term asteroid was born , and after they realized the large number of them, the term asteroid belt was born.
The current theory about the origin of the asteroid belt has been proposed by researchers at the University of Bordeaux. He suggests that the belt at an earlier time in history was super-populated and, by the gravitational pull of Jupiter, launched about 99% of its material out of the solar system.
They suggest that, then, the belt arose from an empty space that later was gradually filling with material that had been thrown from other planets. So, we can say that the asteroids were reaching the belt as it was being created.
Where is it located:
The belt is located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter where we find thousands of asteroids occupying a strip located at distances between 2 and 4 AU from the sun, this means between 300 and 600 kilometers.
It is important to mention that 1 AU is an astronomical unit that marks the average distance between the sun and the earth and is equal to 149,597,871 km.
Characteristics of the asteroid belt:
Some of its main characteristics are:
- Belt asteroids have an age of approximately 4.6 million years.
- It works as a boundary between the inner planets and the outer gaseous planets.
- The asteroids that make up the belt are made of carbon rocks and minerals like iron and nickel .
- The total mass of the asteroid belt is estimated between 3.0 × 1021 and 3.6 × 1021 kg.
- The sizes of asteroids are variants and known size measuring its distance.
- The brighter the asteroids are, the larger their surface area as it reflects more sunlight.
Asteroid belt planets:
The only planet that we find in the asteroid belt has the name Ceres and it has been classified as a dwarf planet because its gravity has molded it into a spherical way.
By 2006 it was considered the largest asteroid but the theory changed from that year on. It has a magnitude of 3.32 more than any other body within the belt and is made up of a silicate core and a layer of water in the form of ice.
- Vesta : It is the second largest asteroid and is the brightest of all. Its diameter is approximately 530 kilometers and it orbits at a distance from the sun very similar to that of Ceres. Its core is made of iron and nickel , and it has an olivine mantle.
- Pallas: Represents 7% of the belt and has the most eccentric orbit of the asteroids. Its distance is closer to the sun and its orbital inclination is higher.
- Hagia: It is the fourth largest object within the belt with an average radius of approximately 431 kilometers. Its shape is elongated and constitutes 3% of the total mass of the belt. It is a carbon asteroid , it is the outermost and takes five and a half years to complete one orbit.
- Juno: It was the third asteroid to be discovered. It is the heaviest and was discovered on September 1, 1804, by the astronomer Karl Ledwig. It owes its name to the goddess Juno and was originally thought to be a planet.
- It is constantly rotating around the sun.
- It has no gravity of its own and no atmosphere.
- All of its asteroids are of different shapes and sizes.
- Although the planets were created from asteroids, the ones in the belt never managed to reunite due to the strong gravity of Jupiter.
- Despite the great distance between asteroids, they always collide continuously.