New theory for formation of main asteroid belt


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

The uncertainty of science: Using computer models, astronomers have developed a new completely different theory to explain the existence of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The asteroid belt (sometimes referred to as the main asteroid belt) orbits between Mars and Jupiter. It consists of asteroids and minor planets forming a disk around the sun. It also serves as a sort of dividing line between the inner rocky planets and outer gas giants. Current theory suggests that the asteroid belt was once much more heavily populated, but the gravitational pull of Jupiter flung approximately 99 percent of its former material to other parts of the solar system or beyond. Astronomers also assumed that Jupiter’s gravity prevented the material in the belt from coalescing into larger planets. In this new effort, the researchers propose a completely different explanation of the asteroid belt’s origin—suggesting that the belt started out as an empty space and was subsequently filled by material flung from the inner and outer planets.

The new theory is interesting in that it really illustrates how little we really know about the formation of our solar system. The simple fact is that either one of these theories might be the answer, even though they propose completely opposite initial conditions. We simply do not have enough information about solar system formation in general to constrain our models and determine which of these theories is right.

Until scientists have been able to study hundreds, if not thousands, of solar systems up close, these models will be nothing more than interesting exercises in computer modeling.

Share

6 comments

  • mike shupp

    Well maybe, but the notion that the proto-asteroids from different regions conveniently sorted themselves into closer-to-the-sun S types and more distant C types strikes me as implausible. Also the notion that rocky planets preferentially thrust asteroids away from the sun while gas giants shoved them towards Sol sounds like hooey — it would make much more sense if both sorts of planets scattered asteroids in all directions, some of which fortuitously wound up in stable orbits around the sun while most were swallowed up or expelled from the solar system.

  • Max

    Mike:
    I agree, Hooey.
    Until we go out there and examine the bits and pieces in the astroid belt, we won’t know if they are Proto material or a destroyed fifth planet.
    If some of the chunks have sedimentary layers, then we will know that a large catastrophe happened, perhaps what Mars slammed into… How earth captured the moon… Why Venus rotates backwards… Why Mercury is so heavy (dense) like it was the center core of a larger planet at one time…
    Our little solar system is full of mystery.

    Or the asteroids might just be leftover material filling 3 AU of space were no planetary body will bother it. Not very romantic or interesting. But that doesn’t explain the Trojans near Jupiter….

  • wodun

    We tend to think of space being empty but it isn’t. Its full of objects from dust up to black holes. It shouldn’t be surprising that material would gather in the cosmic eddies. Where the asteroid belt, or any other asteroid, came from are great mysteries but also might not have any super exotic explanations.

  • Joe From Houston

    Scientists are not much more than fish in a pond. They have no idea what its like if they can’t see it, taste it, smell it, or touch it.

    A dog knows it’s being fed when its owner opens a can of dog food and pours it in the bowl. How the food got in the can and into the house is of no concern to the dog. The dog has no real control over getting fed other than showing the owner how eager they are to eat. This behavior is a reason that owners like to have pets.

    So, scientists proposing what caused the appearance of the asteroid belt a long time ago is simply a distraction to what scientists are really good at, i.e., eating dog food poured in a bowl and exhibiting eager behavior to their owners.

  • wayne

    Joe from Houston–

    here you go–

    “Little Known Failures in Science”
    http://mediacdn.snorgcontent.com/media/catalog/product/p/a/pavlovcatbrown_fullpic.png

  • pzatchok

    Maybe planetary formation needs a far higher amount of mass in the local orbit in order for it to be sustained.
    Otherwise it just sort of starts and stops and the next collision breaks it all apart again.
    It needs a higher mass to draw things together faster than they can be ripped apart.

    Whats the smallest semi spherical body in the solar system? Or the largest non spherical body in the solar system?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *