Asteroid Belt Facts

Asteroid Belt Facts

What is the Asteroid Belt?

Most of the asteroids found in the solar system are in a region out beyond Mars. They form what we know as the Asteroid Belt. Others orbit in near-Earth space and a few drift around or are thrown out to the outer solar system by gravitational interactions.

asteroid belt image

The four largest asteroids in the belt are Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, and Hygiea. These four alone contain half the mass of the entire belt.

The rest of the mass is comprised of immeasurable smaller bodies. Apparently there was once a theory that if you used all the asteroids together, it would make up the fifth rocky planet.

Scientists do think that if you had to combine all the asteroid material, then it would make a tiny world smaller than Earth’s moon. Wow, that’s interesting.

Asteroid Belt Overview

The Asteroid Belt is in an area of space between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. That places it between 2.2 and 3.2 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun. The belt is about 1 AU thick.

An astronomical unit is a measurement which is equal to 92,957,130 miles (149,600,000 km), the mean distance from the centre of the earth to the centre of the Sun.

The average distance between objects in the Asteroid Belt is rather large. To give you an idea, if you could stand on an asteroid and look around, the next one would be too far away to see very well.

asteroid belt facts

Asteroid Mining

The solar system contains load of different types of asteroids, which are grouped together by the minerals they contain. They are filled with precious metals like nickel, iron, titanium just to name a few, as well as water.

Due to this, there is a lot of talk about mining asteroids. When we decide to make our presence more well-known in space, water from asteroids could be used to serve colonies in space and the minerals and metals could be used to build habitats to grow food for future space colony occupants.

Since the beginning of 2013, companies interested in asteroid mining began announcing their plans for future operations to take advantage of what’s available to us in space.

asteroid mining

NASA is also considering similar missions. The biggest obstacles to asteroid mining are the need to develop affordable spaceflight technology that would allow humans to get to the asteroids of interest.

Watch this space, maybe this will happen sooner than we think?

Interesting Facts about the Asteroid Belt

  • Asteroid Belt objects are made up of rock and stone. Some are solid, while others are like rubble piles that orbit around in space.
  • The Asteroid Belt literally has billions and billions of asteroids inside it.
  • Some of them are rather large, but amazingly most of them are about the size of pebbles.
  • The asteroid Ceres is also named as a dwarf planet. It is the largest asteroid in the inner solar system.
  • We know about at least 7,000 asteroids. So we’ve still got a lot to find out.
  • It is true that the Asteroid Belt has plenty of objects floating around it, but it’s interesting to note that they are spread out over a huge area. This also means that spacecraft can go through the Asteroid Belt without hitting anything.

spacecraft_in_asteroid_belt

  • How do asteroids get their names? Well there are two naming systems; they are named from suggestions by the person that discovered them and they are also given a number.
  • When Jupiter formed it disrupted the formation of any worlds in the Asteroid Belt as it scattered asteroids away. This caused the asteroids to crash into each other. Because of this they broke into smaller pieces.
  • Gravitational forces can push asteroids hurtling out of the Asteroid Belt.
  • The Asteroid Belt is often called the ‘Main Belt’ to distinguish it from other groups of asteroids like the Lagrangians and Centaurs.

Now you know all about the Asteroid Belt. It’s rather an interesting place. Wonder if we’ll see mining happening any time soon?

More Resources