Photos of the Sun

Asteroid belt. Asteroids, Jupiter and Saturn

Asteroid belt. Asteroids, Jupiter and Saturn

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Between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter is an area of ​​550 million kilometers in which about 20,000 asteroids orbit. It is known as the Asteroid or Main Belt, to differentiate it from other groups of smaller bodies of the Solar System, such as the Kuiper Belt or the Oort Cloud.

The objects that transit in this region of the Solar System are totally irregular, although there are five that have a greater mass. It is Ceres, Shovels, Vesta, Higia and Juno. Ceres is the only dwarf planet in the belt, and has a diameter of 950 kilometers and a mass of twice that of Pallas and Vesta together. The rest of the bodies are much smaller. Asteroids are classified into three groups, according to their spectrum and composition: carbonaceous (type-C), silicate (type-S) and metal (type-M).

The material of the belt is scattered throughout the volume of the orbit, so it would be easy to get through it without bumping into any of them. It is more likely that two large objects collide with each other, generating families of asteroids, with similar compositions and characteristics. In these collisions a dust is also generated that is the major component of the zodiacal light.

The Asteroid Belt, like the rest of the Solar System, formed in the protosolar nebula. All the materials in this area could have formed a planet, but Jupiter's gravity prevented it. Their gravitational disturbances caused the fragments to collide with each other at high speeds and could not be grouped together. Thus formed the belt of rocks that can be observed today.

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