The asteroid belt is a region of our Solar System located between Mars and Jupiter. There are heaps of irregularly shaped bodies of rocks called asteroids (or minor planets) founds in the asteroid belt. This article will tell you who discovered the asteroid belt and also look at some facts about the asteroid belt.
Who, what, where and when…
The history behind the discovery of the asteroid belt is quite fascinating. In 1766, Johann Daniel Titius looked at the distances between planets and discovered that there was an unusual mathematical sequence which could accurately predict where the planets were located. This was called the Titius-Bode Law. When Uranus was discovered in 1781, it fit the model perfectly. The discovery of Neptune in 1846, however, discredited the theory as it didn’t fit the model at all. Today, scientists believe the mathematical sequence that Titius found is merely a coincidence.
Anyway, while the Titius-Bode Law was still believed to be correct, a scientific club was formed to find a planet between Mars and Jupiter that should have existed according to the theory. On New Years Day, 1801, Giuseppe Piazzi find a tiny object exactly where it should have been according to the Law. He initially thought it was a comet, but there was no coma (envelope) around the rock. He thought that it must have been a planet. In 1802, Heinrich Olbers discovered another object in that region. William Herschel suggested that these bodies be called asteroids, which means ‘star-like’. New objects were discovered in that region for years to come and it was eventually renamed the asteroid belt.
Facts about the asteroid belt
- Some asteroids in the belt are over 100km wide.
- While there are lots of asteroids in the belt, they are spread across a large distance so it is very unlikely (about a one in a billion chance) that a spacecraft would run into an asteroid.
- Despite the low density of asteroids, collisions between asteroids have been known to occur and an asteroid family is formed when asteroids collide.