Asteroid Belt Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

In our Solar System, a huge band of asteroids exists beyond Mars. It is called the Asteroid Belt. What exactly is the Asteroid Belt? How did it get there? This lesson will answer these questions and more!

What is an Asteroid?

Space is not empty. Well, that's kind of obvious, because the Earth is in space, right? But, even between planets, space isn't just empty. There are lots of rocks and other objects floating around. Sometimes scientists refer to all of the rocks and other object floating through space as 'space junk.' Any piece of space junk that is relatively big (larger than about 10 meters across) is called an asteroid. An object smaller than about 10 meters is usually called a meteoroid. Meteoroids don't really scare us here on Earth because they're so small, but some asteroids are big enough to cause some damage if they hit us!

This is a picture of a real asteroid. The picture was taken by a space probe.
Asteroid

Parts of the Solar System

You probably already know that the Solar System contains the Sun and the planets that revolve around it. But there are other parts of the Solar System that are important. In particular, there is an area between Mars and Jupiter that contains millions of asteroids and other space junk. We call this area the Asteroid Belt. The Asteroid Belt is in orbit around the Sun, just like all of the planets.

The Asteroid Belt is very far away from Earth. It would take many years for a spacecraft to reach there (and the spacecraft we have sent to study it have taken that long!) which is why we will probably not send a human there any time soon. A person would probably find it pretty boring once they got there, anyway!

This diagram shows the location of the Asteroid Belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. As you can see, there are actually a few areas where asteroids are common in that area.
Asteroid Belt diagram

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