In science fiction books and movies, they used to adore the use of a critical moment when a spacecraft needed to rush through an asteroid belt. There must have been a collision or fear of a probable blow. But how dangerous is such a journey, and what is the probability of a collision?
Main Asteroid Belt
This area sometimes gets the prefix “main” to distinguish it from other similar areas, like the Kuiper belt and Oort clouds. The term was first used in the 1850s. It is located between the orbital paths of Mars and Jupiter.
If you looked at it on the map, you might have noticed a huge ring with many large and small space rocks. All this is asteroids and small planets. If you take the total mass, then it only takes 4% lunar, among which most of it will go to the four largest objects.
It is believed that the material for the formation of the belt were planetesimal at the early stage of the birth of the solar system. Then the times were extremely hectic. Unhappy objects were approaching giant Jupiter, and its gravity oscillated their orbits. There were collisions and crushing into small pieces, many of which were sent to the terrestrial planets. In 1918 astronomer Kiyetsugu Hirayama was able to find asteroid families of. These are groups of asteroids with uniform orbital paths. Almost all of them live in such clusters and are named after the main object.
Is there a danger of collision?
Asteroids of the internal system and Jupiter: the asteroid belt in the form of a donut is located between Jupiter and Mars
Many representatives seem tiny in size, but there are kilometer objects. This situation does not inspire confidence, but we forget about such factors as distance.
The asteroid belt covers a large area and its objects are scattered. In addition, there are gaps, that is, relatively empty territories. The distance between two separate space rocks can reach 2 million km. So, you will not find yourself in an asteroid swarm, and you can only notice single large or small bodies.
At the first launch, engineers were worried about the risk of collision. But the road was laid by the apparatus Pioneer-10, with which nothing happened. Pioneer-11 and a pair Voyagers also slipped safely. They were followed by Ulysses and Galileo. Future space tourists may not even notice this site. In addition, the ship will always have time to dodge.
Collisions in the belt
Artistic concept of creating asteroid families
Analysis shows that large space rocks (10 km) can collide once every 10 million years. At such moments, they create clouds of small fragments, allowing to form a new family. But they move relatively slowly, so sometimes when they strike they merge, forming a single body.
It is more dangerous that when struck, some fragments lose the orbital path of the parents and travel closer to the Sun. Sometimes they visit us, but their sizes are small, so most often they burn in the atmosphere of the Earth.
However, there is an assumption that the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs and formed the crater Chicxlub came to us precisely after the collision in the asteroid belt. Therefore, it is better to look in that direction.
If you are lucky enough to become a space tourist, then you will safely pass through the main asteroid belt on your way to the outer solar system. You will not even shake. Look carefully into the windows and, perhaps, “lucky” to notice the cobblestone flying past.