In this article you will learn the differences between Jupiter and Mars the two largest planets in our Solar System. You will also learn the zones and sizes of the asteroids in the asteroid belt and the rates at which asteroids may impact Earth. In addition you will learn why it is so important to understand the asteroid belt and what it means for us. This information is useful in determining how we should protect our planet from space debris.
Mars and Jupiter
Asteroid belts are objects in our solar system that orbit the planets Mars and Jupiter. Although these objects are not planets they are shepherded by Jupiter and do not coalesce onto other bodies. During their journeys through our solar system asteroids can collide with Earth. If one of these objects does collide with Earth it will cause an impact in the atmosphere of a spacecraft causing a fatal explosion.
The asteroid belt contains about one-tenth the mass of Earth. The belt contains radially segregated asteroids of two types S-type asteroids dominate the inner belt and C-type asteroid are found outside the belt. According to researchers the asteroid belt formed with a greater amount of mass and more empty space between Mars and Jupiter’s current orbits. The asteroid belt contains remnants from a planetesimals that were heavily depleted when they formed.
The asteroid belt is composed of several large bodies and hundreds of thousands of smaller ones. Ceres Vesta Pallas and Hygiea are some of the largest asteroids in our solar system. Over 200 asteroids are known to exist in the belt. Most are small ranging in size from a few feet to several thousand feet. These objects are often found in clusters of thousands of asteroids that orbit the planets.
Astronomers discovered several bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The orbit of Uranus matched the law of planetary motions almost perfectly so astronomers concluded that there must be a planet between Mars and Jupiter. Scientists have also confirmed that several million objects orbit the sun and the solar nebula. The asteroid belt lies between Mars and Jupiter. These bodies provide scientists with invaluable information about the solar system.
While we haven’t yet observed an asteroid belt close up spacecraft have passed through it many times. Although there’s a large gap between the asteroid belt and the planetary orbits such close encounters are not feasible without a spacecraft. The spacecraft Galileo successfully flew by the asteroid Ida in 1993. But because of the spacecraft’s large separation an asteroid of a kilometer in size is too small to be observed without a telescope.
Zones of asteroids in the asteroid belt
There are three main zones of asteroids in the asteroidbelt between the Sun and Earth: A B and C. Asteroids of the Asteroid belt vary in size shape and composition but are roughly equivalent in mass. The outer boundaries of each zone are defined by the asteroid families Pallas Hygiea and Themis. In addition to the main zones there are several smaller sub-zones in the asteroid belt.
The inner zone is dominated by the S-type asteroids. These asteroid groups lie closer to 2.5 AU of the Sun have silicates and metal compositions and lack significant carbonaceous elements. However they are surprisingly low-density forming only 17% of the entire population. But there are other larger groups of asteroids containing varying amounts of metal.
The outer zone is dominated by the metallic asteroids which have black red or green appearances. While their mass is higher than that of the inner zone they still contain substantial amounts of water. Asteroid belt collisions between the two planets prevent them from accreting more matter and so they are rapidly colliding. These collisions result in distinct patterns in light reflection and reflectance of various objects.
The asteroid belt is the vast area of space between the Earth and other bodies. There are millions of asteroids in the solar system most of which orbit between Jupiter and Mars. This region is known as the Asteroid Belt and the most famous is Vesta with a diameter of 329 miles (530 kilometers).
Near-Earth asteroids also called Apollos and Atens cross the orbit of Earth and pose the greatest threat to our planet. Asteroid belt asteroids are incredibly large and can be reached by spacecraft. The advantage of exploring these asteroids is that they are less energy-intensive than missions to far-away bodies. Despite their small size the vast amount of water they hold could be useful in the fuel of future spacecraft.
There are many orbital resonances in the Asteroid Belt associated with giant planets. These resonances occur when the semimajor axis of the asteroid and the planet match. The orbital eccentricity of these objects can change dramatically resulting in close encounters with Jupiter and ejection from the solar system. A few of these fragments are able to orbit the Sun twice each time Jupiter orbits the planet. If this were the case a small asteroid would have drifted in due to gas drag.
Sizes of asteroids in the asteroid belt
The asteroid belt is a ring of objects whose sizes and orbital elements are comparable to those of the planets. It lies between Mars and Jupiter and contains many objects that are not found anywhere else in our solar system. Each asteroid lies between a planet and the Sun so it is impossible for them to collide with either of them. This belt is made up of several types of asteroids.
Asteroid belts are characterized by three main types C-type S-type and M-type. C-type asteroids are carbon-rich and dominate the outer belt. They have a reddish hue and very low albedo. They are thought to be the parent bodies of ordinary chondrites. M-type asteroids are composed primarily of metallic iron.
The Asteroid Belt contains several large bodies and millions of smaller asteroids. The largest asteroids include Ceres Vesta Pallas Hygiea and Vesta. These bodies would all be smaller than the Moon if placed together. A total of between 0.7 and 1.7 million asteroids have diameters that are at least one kilometer.
Asteroids in the asteroid belt can be one meter in diameter and up to 100 meters in diameter. Astronomers also consider Trojan asteroids which orbit the Sun in gravitationally stable points between Jupiter and the Sun. There are as many Trojans in the asteroid belt as there are asteroid-crossing bodies in the solar system.
The vast size of the asteroid belt implies that once the asteroid belt held as much solid material as the Earth it was a more massive place. The asteroid belt may have once contained more than twice the mass of Earth. In fact the smooth interpolation of the solid material needed to make inner planets would place two Earth-masses in the asteroid belt.
The formation of the asteroid belt has long baffled scientists. While many researchers still believe that the belt was formed by the fragmentation of a larger planet there are few conclusive evidences for this theory. For instance the mass of Pallas and Ceres is similar and they may be fragments of larger asteroids. If the asteroid belt is an old one then it might have formed around the time when the planets were formed.
Impact rate of asteroids on Earth
The impact rate of asteroids on Earth is incredibly small. Small asteroids are likely to strike every a thousand to 10000 years and if they were larger they could destroy cities and cause tsunamis. Larger space rocks would simply burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere but the size of some asteroids is too small for the planet to cope with. A recent asteroid that struck the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013 injured 1200 people and caused a global environmental catastrophe. The asteroid was approximately 65 feet (20 meters) wide when it entered the atmosphere.
The moon is an excellent analog of Earth when it comes to solar system effects. A recent study of 111 moon craters under a billion years old suggested that the asteroid impact rate increased 290 million years ago. This finding makes a compelling case for the existence of Earth’s missing craters and it will also help us understand some geological processes. In addition the study revealed the earliest known collision in the solar system and it may have been as far back as 440 million years ago.
The asteroid belt is composed of approximately 1000 NEA larger than one kilometer in diameter with about one million smaller than 50 m in diameter. If the object were two kilometers across it would generate one million megatons of energy leaving a 20-km-diameter crater. Even though it would destroy Earth’s atmosphere it would cause significant geological and biological damage.
Because of the huge size of asteroids it is essential to understand their structures and composition. Knowing whether an asteroid is a large rock or a floating pile of gravel may help researchers devise strategies to protect the planet. Further knowing the time scale and length of an asteroid may help scientists devise strategies to drill deep into it. One example is the dark carbon-rich asteroid 253 Mathilde. The impact craters and the resulting particles could have thrown fragments into space.
Some asteroids rotate faster than others. It is thought that non-solid asteroids will only spin so fast before their material is whirled off. This means that large asteroids will not have a long rotation period. A 30-meter asteroid 1998 KY26 rotates at a rate of five minutes per day. The duration of daylight on the asteroid is less than a second. During terrestrial sunrise or sunset however the period of light is much longer.