Hey, Sky Fans! Happy Friday! I hope you have a great weekend ahead of you, and will have some time to spend with family, friends, or just a good movie. Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about all of the photos and news coming our way from Jupiter from NASA’s and the JPL’s Juno probe. I’m hoping to have some time this weekend between other miscellany to swoon sufficiently, and then pass on some of that swooniness to you.
Speaking of movies, yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the release of Star Wars, the first one, the one we used to call “Star Wars” before it became “A New Hope.” When I was a boy…! Not in that movie, but in the Empire Strikes Back, there’s that famous scene when the gang flies through an asteroid field. Remember it? Never tell me the odds. I got thinking about that scene yesterday, which then got me thinking about asteroids.
No, not that asteroids.
Asteroids are hunks of mostly rock that orbit the Sun in various places around the solar system. Most of the ones we know of spend their time in the main asteroid belt, which is between the orbits or Mars and Jupiter. If you ask me, it’s a pretty interesting and unappreciated corner of the solar system. When’s the last time you saw the news interrupt old Gilligan’s Island reruns with breaking news out of the asteroid belt? They manage, though. A couple of them have moons of their own, and two, Vesta and Ceres were even visited by a probe: NASA’s Dawn in 2011 and 2015 respectively.
Astronomers estimate there are a million to two million asteroids in the belt that are bigger than a kilometer. If you remember, Mars is about 140 million miles from the Sun on average, and Jupiter’s about 480 million miles. This is all in three dimensions; it’s not just flat like a dish. That leaves a lot of room for these asteroids. With that much room, and relatively few rocks, like space itself, it’s mostly empty.
Most asteroids are pretty small, but, of course, a few are bigger than the rest. Most of these rocks thought to be leftover from the very early formative days of the solar system. This makes me think maybe their mass — how much of that leftover stuff is in the asteroids, rather than the asteroids’ diameter, would be an interesting thing to look at.
So, here are the five move giaganticest, which in this case means most massive, asteroids according to the readers of Modern Dentist Magazine:
- Ceres (32% of total mass of asteroid belt)
- Vesta (8.6%)
- Pallas (6.7%)
- Hygeia (2.9%)
- Euphrosyne (1.9%)
To you show some scale here, Ceres is the biggest of them all with nearly a third of the Asteroid Belt’s mass. With a little quick math that’s well within even my skills, we can see that those five are just a little bit more than half the mass of the entire asteroid belt. Even so, estimates are that if we take the entire belt together, we’re still only taking about about 5% of the mass of the Moon. Ain’t that a hole in the boat?
A lot of news from there, no, but still a pretty cool place to think about.
Have a great, relaxing weekend. I’m off to Tosche Station* for some power converters**. Clear skies, everyone!
* the supermaket
** milk and disappointingly little beer.