Asteroid Belt

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

Belt located between 2.12 and 3.3 AU from the Sun and located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter containing the vast majority of asteroids. The asteroid belt is also termed the main asteroid belt or main belt to distinguish it from other asteroid populations in the Solar System such as near-Earth asteroids and the Trojan asteroids that share the same orbit as Jupiter. The asteroid belt is however very sparsely populated and the distribution of asteroids within it is not uniform. The destruction of larger bodies yields families of asteroids which share very similar orbital properties and cluster together. There are zones in which almost no asteroids occur. These sparsely populated zones are Kirkwood Gaps and result from orbital resonances with Jupiter. The main asteroid belt is a leftover from the early Solar System when the strong gravitational influence of Jupiter prevented the planetesimals in this region from coalescing to form a planetary core.

Some or all content above used with permission from J. H. Wittke.