It seems prefer there’s a strange space in in between Mars and Jupiter filled through rocky rubble. Why didn’t the asteroid belt type into a planet, like the rest of the Solar System?

Beyond the orbit of Mars lies the asteroid belt that a vast collection that rocks and also ice, leftover native the formation of the solar system. That starts around 2 AU, ends about 4 AU. Objects in the asteroid belt range from tiny pebbles to Ceres at 950 km across.

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Star Wars and also other sci-fi has it all wrong. The objects here are numerous thousand the kilometers apart. There’d it is in absolutely no danger or tactical advantage to flying your spacecraft through it.

To begin with, there actually isn’t that much stuff in the asteroid belt. If you were to take it the entire asteroid belt and form it into a solitary mass, that would only be about 4% of the mass of ours Moon. Presume a similar density, it would certainly be smaller than Pluto’s moon Charon.

There’s a famous idea that maybe there was a planet between Mars and also Jupiter that exploded, or also collided with an additional planet. What if most of the debris was thrown out of the solar system, and the asteroid belt is what remains?

We recognize this isn’t the instance for a couple of of reasons. First, any explosion or collision wouldn’t be powerful enough come throw product out of the Solar System. For this reason if it to be a previous planet we’d actually see much more debris.

Second, if every the asteroid belt bits come from a single planetary body, they would certainly all be chemically similar. The chemistry composition of Earth, Mars, Venus, etc are all unique due to the fact that they formed in different regions of the solar system. Likewise, various asteroids have different chemical compositions, which method they need to have created in different regions of the asteroid belt.

Artist’s depiction of the asteroid belt in between Mars and Jupiter. Credit: David Minton and also Renu Malhotra

In fact, as soon as we look at the chemical compositions of different asteroids we view that they can be grouped into different families, v each having a common origin. This gives us a clue regarding why a world didn’t type where the asteroid belt is.

If friend arrange every the asteroids in order of their median distance from the Sun, you uncover they aren’t evenly distributed. Instead you discover a bunch, then a gap, climate a bunch more, then one more gap, and so on. These gaps in the asteroid belt are well-known as Kirkwood gaps, and they occur at ranges where one orbit would certainly be in resonance with the orbit of Jupiter.

Jupiter’s gravity is so strong, the it makes asteroid orbits within the Kirkwood gaps unstable. It’s these gaps that prevented a solitary planetary body from developing in that region. So, because of Jupiter, asteroids formed into households of debris, fairly than a single planetary body.

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What carry out you think? What’s your favorite thing in the asteroid belt. Tell united state in the comments below.