Don’t worry, this isn’t some new fashion trend set to take over the youth of today. The asteroid belt is a very real and very interesting portion of our solar system. Now, you might be picturing an asteroid field densely packed together like in sci-fi movies, but that’s not quite how it shakes out in reality. Here’s what the asteroid belt is and what we know about it:
1. Between Mars and Jupiter lies a scattered field of space-debris…
The asteroid belt makes up the space in between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It’s circular and about 92 million miles in width. Within the asteroid belt, there are likely millions of asteroids, including the largest one we know of: Ceres. In fact, Ceres is so large that it’s classified as a dwarf planet.
2. It’s likely made up of the remnants of our solar system’s formation.
So what’s the asteroid belt doing hanging around the Sun? It’s likely that our early solar system was one giant asteroid belt, with debris floating around everywhere and coalescing into planets. However, since Jupiter’s gravitational pull is so strong, the asteroid material probably wasn’t able to come together. So essentially, the asteroid belt is what’s left over from the formation of our solar system.
3. The average distance between the asteroids is vast.
The name “asteroid belt” sounds like a minefield of flying objects and giant boulders, but let’s think about how expansive space is. Asteroids ranging in size from pebbles to dwarf planets are orbiting around, but they don’t hit each other and cause chaos. When we send probes out towards Jupiter, we don’t worry about the probe meeting an untimely end due to asteroid collision. This is because, on average, the space between each asteroid is about 600,000 miles. Talk about roomy!