The asteroid belt is a ring-shaped region in our solar system, located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. This region is occupied by millions of small solid objects and irregular bodies of different sizes. These bodies directly rotate around the sun and known as asteroids or minor planets.
These asteroids or minor planets are classified into two categories- 1. Small solar system bodies (SSSBs), and 2. Dwarf planets. This asteroid belt region is also known as the main asteroid belt or main belt to distinguish it from other asteroid regions of our solar system.
According to an estimation this belt contains more than 1.5 million asteroids with a size larger than 1 km in diameter, and other millions are smaller ones. Whereas, more than 200 known asteroids have a diameter of larger than 100 km.
Asteroid belt facts
Knowing the facts about the asteroid belt is always interesting because these asteroids are located near to the earth. The Objects of this belt can bring great trouble on the earth and also have the power to completely erase life. So here we have mentioned some interesting facts about the asteroid belt.
⇒ It has millions of object
There are millions of objects in this belt, in which hundreds of thousands are the asteroids and some are minor planets. The first object in this region was discovered in 1801 as a dwarf planet ‘Ceres’. More than 800,000 objects have been discovered by 2016.
⇒ Only 4 objects contain half of its total mass
The dwarf planet Ceres is the most massive and largest object of this belt. Ceres and other three asteroids Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea contained almost half the total belt mass. Only the object Ceres has a size of almost 950km in diameter. Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea have a mean diameter of less than 600 km. Whereas the size of other remaining objects is lesser than 600 km and ranges up to as short as pebbles.
⇒ Enormous space between the objects
Though there are many objects in this region, still there is enormous space between the objects of the belt. Scientists have estimated that there is an average space of almost more than 600,000 miles or 960,000 km between two objects of asteroid belts. A spacecraft can easily pass without any interfere through the region of this belt.
⇒ Most asteroids are dangerous for the earth
As the scientists have estimated that the extinction of dinosaurs happened because a large asteroid had collided with earth before millions of years ago. So these asteroids also may be dangerous in the future and can create trouble for life on the earth.
The objects of the main belt are not perfectly bounded by gravitational force. Usually, some short asteroids enter the atmosphere of the earth but they burn up because of heat created by air friction before reaching to earth’s surface.
⇒ Asteroid mining can be beneficial for the earth
We just read about how asteroids can be dangerous to life on earth if it gets collide. But on the other way, it could also be beneficial and profitable to us. As we know the resources like tin, silver, lead, zinc, iron, gold, phosphorus, copper and other precious materials will be soon going to exhaust on the earth.
Asteroid mining is a process of bringing raw materials from the asteroids and other minor planets on the earth. In our solar system, most of the asteroids contain different minerals and metals in an enormous amount. Materials like cobalt, platinum, and other valuable elements can also be used in the future for creating space habitats and satellites.
⇒ Asteroid belt and Kuiper belt are very similar
It looks very similar to the Kuiper belt but the size is much smaller than the Kuiper belt. The Kuiper belt is more than 20 times larger in width and approximately 200 times massive than the main asteroid belt. Kuiper belt is located between 30AU to 100AU from the sun and extends beyond the orbit of dwarf planet pluto.
⇒ Asteroid belt objects do not have any moon
The size of the most asteroid belt objects are quite small and they do not have any moons unlike most Kuiper belt objects (KBOs). Dwarf planet Ceres is largest in this belt, still does not have enough gravity to sustain any moon.
⇒ The total mass of the belt is lower than Moon
Though there are millions of asteroids and other minor objects in this region. But the total mass of the whole objects is less than the mass of the moon. The mass of the asteroid belt is approximately 2.4 × 1021 kg, which is almost 3% of the moon’s mass.
Asteroid belt location
The asteroid belt is located in the inner solar system region between the orbits of planet Mars and Jupiter. This belt looks like a torus-shaped structure, extending from 2.2 AU to 3.2 AU from the sun.
(1 AU is almost 150 million km and is the distance between the sun and earth). The thickness of the main-belt structure is approximately 1 AU.
The closest distance between the belt and the earth is around 1.2 AU to 2.2 AU. At the same time, the farthest edge of the belt would be opposite to the sun. So the farthest distance between the belt and the earth is approximately 3.2 AU to 4.2 AU.
The volume of the belt is large and the average space between two asteroids is approximately more 950,000 km. So it would be almost impossible for a spacecraft to reach from one asteroid to another asteroid without aiming carefully.
Distance between 2.2 AU to 3.2 AU from the sun is the location of the most asteroids. This region also contains some of the active asteroids. Active asteroids are those icy objects that have a behavior of asteroids as well as comets. So this was the answer for “where is the asteroid belt located” in our solar system.
Asteroid belt formation
As we know there are millions of objects in the main belt region, but did you ever thought that how the asteroid belt was formed? Earlier the scientist believed that the object of the main asteroid belt was formed by an impact of a comet on a big size planet. Though some scientists believed that an internal explosion of a big planet happened and it formed all the asteroids of the main belt.
According to new studies, this belt is also made of solar nebula (cloud of gas & dust) like other planets. The interstellar cloud of gas and dust formed the planetesimals during the process of planetary formation. The planetesimals in the inner solar region continued to orbit the sun and get disturbed by the high gravitational force of Jupiter.
Usually, they were colliding with high velocity and were shattering into fragments. This collision prevented them to form a planet-sized object. So they could not grow into a proper planet and formed asteroids.
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