Asteroid Belt

Asteroid Classifications (NASA)

Main asteroid belt: The majority of known asteroids orbit within the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, generally with not very elongated orbits. The belt is estimated to contain between 1.1 and 1.9 million asteroids larger than 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) in diameter, and millions of smaller ones. Early in the history of the solar system, the gravity of newly formed Jupiter brought an end to the formation of planetary bodies in this region and caused the small bodies to collide with one another, fragmenting them into the asteroids we observe today.

 Trojans: These asteroids share an orbit with a larger planet, but do not collide with it because they gather around two special places in the orbit (called the L4 and L5 Lagrangian points). There, the gravitational pull from the sun and the planet are balanced by a trojan's tendency to otherwise fly out of the orbit. The Jupiter trojans form the most significant population of trojan asteroids. It is thought that they are as numerous as the asteroids in the asteroid belt. There are Mars and Neptune trojans, and NASA announced the discovery of an Earth trojan in 2011.

Near-Earth asteroids: These objects have orbits that pass close by that of Earth. Asteroids that actually cross Earth's orbital path are known as Earth-crossers. As of June 19, 2013, 10,003 near-Earth asteroids are known and the number over 1 kilometer in diameter is thought to be 861, with 1,409 classified as potentially hazardous asteroids - those that could pose a threat to Earth.

  • Asteroid Belt
Orbit Specifications
Semi-major axis 2.4921 x 10?? km
1.5237 AU
Eccentricity 0.093315
Orbital Period 686.971 d
Physical Characteristics Specifications
Mean radius 3389 km
0.533 Earths
Mass 6.4185 x 1023 kg
0.107 Earths
Mean density 3.9335 g/cm??
Surface gravity 3.711 m/s2
0.376 g
Axial tilt 25.19??