The Asteroid Belt

The Asteroid Belt

The Asteroid Belt is located in the area of space between Mars and Jupiter.

The Asteroid Belt is a wide, circular track of rocks, which are racing at different speeds around the Sun.

A small portion of the asteroids contain iron and nickel metals.

The Asteroid Belt contains billions and billions of asteroids.

Many of the asteroids in the belt are quite enormous, but most range in size down to pebbles.

There are usually thousands of kilometers in distance between the asteroids

The 4 largest asteroids in the belt are Ceres, Vesta , Pallas and Hygiea.

Dwarf planet Ceres is the largest object in the Belt.

One large asteroid, named Ida, has its own moon called, Dactyl. It was discovered in 1993, in images taken by the Galileo spacecraft during a flyby.

Because of the vast distance between the asteroids, it allows spacecrafts to move through the region without hitting something.

Some asteroids move around on their own, away from the Asteroid Belt. These can get pulled towards other moons and planets by their stronger gravity.

The smaller pieces of rock and dust that break off the asteroids are called meteoroids.

Most meteoroids usually burn up into nothing when they get into the Earth’s atmosphere, but some large rocks manage to hit the Earth’s surface from time to time. These are called meteorites.

The Asteroid Belt is about 16-25 light minutes from the Sun.

Asteroids can be anywhere between 10 km to 1,000 km wide.

Occasionally an asteroid can get kicked out of the belt due to Jupiter’s gravity, and will start journeying through the Solar System.

Around once every 1,200 years, an asteroid on its journey through the Solar System could crash into our planet. It nearly happened in 2013, when a asteroid measuring 45 metres wide, narrowly missed Earth. If it hit, it  would have exploded with the force of hundreds of atomic bombs.

Many astronomers believe that the death of the dinosaurs was caused by a enormous asteroid that crashed into Central America 65 million years ago.

Though asteroids cannot be seen by the naked eye, they are visible with telescopes.

Italian astronomer Giuseppe, was the first person to discover an asteroid in 1801. He also got to name the largest asteroid, Ceres.

Ceres is both the largest of the asteroids and the only dwarf planet inside Neptune’s orbit.

Large asteroids are also classed as minor planets.

Asteroids are similar to comets.

Asteroids are made up of metals and rocky materials, while comets are made up of ice, dust and rocky materials. They are both “leftovers” from materials from the formation of our Solar System 4.5 billion years ago.