The gravitational conflict that created the asteroid belt


This image from the Hubble Space Telescope reveals the gradual self-destruction of an asteroid, whose dusty material ejected formed two long, thin tails resembling comets. Credit: NASA, ESA, K. Meech and J. Kleyna (University of Hawaii), and O. Hainaut (European Southern Observatory)

The asteroid belt is the ring-shaped disc made up of small, irregular bodies called asteroids located between Mars and Jupiter. I have studied the origins of the asteroid belt in the solar system and shown how the gravitational interaction between the two planets is involved in the formation of the asteroid belt, and how the gravitationally bound system becomes stable enough to avoid any disturbance of the distances of its astronomical bodies.

Creation of the asteroid belt

In the universe, we see that two bodies in gravitational interaction revolve around their common barycenter. In many star systems, the two stars show their clear movement around their barycenter, for example, in binary star systems. This means that unlike the barycenter in terms of physics, the barycenter in astronomy is the point of equilibrium of gravitational forces that exists between two celestial bodies. We can say that the barycenter is a region of space where the gravitational forces exerted by two celestial bodies are perfectly balanced, and the two bodies revolve around it, maintaining a fixed distance from each other (because the forces are balanced).

The barycenter is therefore the point at which the gravitational forces exerted by two objects are equal. But what happens when there is a system of more than two bodies in gravitational interaction in which one body is large enough to have a strong gravitational influence on the others? The solar system is an example of such a system. Not only do the sun and the planets interact; planets gravitationally interact with each other.

Two planets that gravitationally interact with each other will also form a barycenter between them. Taking the example of Mars and Jupiter, the barycenter is not considered to exist between them when they interact gravitationally because these two planets revolve around the sun, which has a gravitational force strong enough to suppress the orbital motion of two planets. ‘one around the other and force them into its own orbit. We can therefore say that there is formation of a barycenter between two planets which interact gravitationally with each other.

The formation of the asteroid belt

Using the barycenter formula for two bodies, we find that the barycenter of Mars and Jupiter is somewhere between their orbits (outside of Jupiter’s body), which is the point of equilibrium of their gravitational forces. It is in fact a region where there is a strong effect of the combined gravitational forces of Mars and Jupiter. As a result, any small body bound by its own weak gravitational force that passes through the barycenter of Mars and Jupiter will be violently disturbed.

This is deduced from the Lagrange points. A Lagrangian point is the region of space where the combined effect of the gravitational forces of two large bodies balances and stabilizes the relative motion of the third very small body; thus, the reverse, that is to say the point of equilibrium of two very large bodies (the barycenter) can violently disturb the movement of a third very small body due to the strong effect of the combined gravitational forces which s ‘find there.

In the case of Lagrangian points, the two large bodies balance the third very small body, while in the case of a barycenter, the two large bodies balance each other and can disrupt the movement of the third very small body. This means that the barycenter will act as a vortex in space in which any incoming small body will be separated in all directions by the combined gravitational forces of the two large bodies – in the case of the asteroid belt, being cut to pieces and falling apart. small particles. . This result is further verified from the observation of the asteroid (6478) Gault made by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2019 and verified by other observatories. A small asteroid was caught spinning so quickly that it threw away its own material.

Creation of asteroid belt

A smooth interpretation of the structure surrounding the Local Void. Our Milky Way galaxy is the source of red-green-blue orientated arrows (each 200 million light years away). We are on the border between a great low density void and the high density Virgo cluster. Credit: R. Brent Tully

Secondary results from the study

  • Today we cannot observe the barycenter between different planets, but in a protoplanetary disk,) at the time when the planets are already formed, vortices are observed (the barycenter will act like a vortex and stir the gas around it) .
  • The strength of the barycenter depends on the masses of the number of bodies, because the barycenter can be an equilibrium point of more than two bodies. The more massive the bodies, the stronger the barycenter region, so that no other body will form a stable state there and be violently removed from it. As a result, the barycenter of two or more very massive bodies will act like a vacuum (with no or much less mass) due to the strong gravitational influence there. This result is verified by the observation of a large “local vacuum” which borders the Milky Way.
  • The barycenter of a gravitationally linked system (such as a galaxy or the solar system) will form a web-like structure. This web-like structure will maintain an appropriate distance between celestial bodies, resembling the intricate web of a spider, which is less disturbed by the wind passing through it due to its complex structure. The web structure of the gravitationally bound system prevents the expansion of the universe from increasing the distances between astronomical bodies. Additionally, a tug-of-war effect created by multiple barycenters will force celestial bodies to rotate in the same direction as the other celestial bodies with which they create barycenters.
Creation of asteroid belt

The barycenter in the linked gravitational system will form a web-like structure. Credit: / public domain


In the case of terrestrial planets, the phenomenon explained above might not be possible between Mercury and Venus, for example, due to their small masses – the combined effect of their gravitational forces is not strong enough to form a prominent belt of rocky pieces. But in the case of massive gas planets, there is the possibility in the form of the Kuiper Belt.

This story is part of Science X Dialog, where researchers can report the results of their published research articles. Visit this page for more information on ScienceX Dialog and how to participate.

More information:
Rehman W (2019) Creation of the asteroid belt. J Astrophys Aerospace Technol 7: 166.… id-belt-creation.pdf

Biography :
Warda Rehman is studying for a Bachelor of Space Science degree at the University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan. His research interests lie in the field of astrophysics and astronomy.

Quote: The gravitational conflict that created the asteroid belt (2020, February 4) retrieved September 28, 2021 from

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