Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Where In The Heliosphere Are The Asteroids Today?

Follow this link (here) to a very cool current plot of all the minor bodies of the inner Solar System, updated daily. It's a crowded region of space.

The Asteroid Belt looks incredibly dense. It's interesting to see the Jovian Trojan Asteroids plotted as well.

What's most relevant to us puny Earthlings are all those objects with orbits of 1.3 AU and closer --- all appropriately displayed in red.


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Dense is a relative term. The plot certainly looks very dense, but that's just because of the limitations of the visualization. For one thing, all of the bodies are projected onto a single plane. Of course the dots are obviously not a scaled representation of the sizes of the asteroids either. On the scale of this plot, even Jupiter would be smaller than a single pixel.

So, while it is impressive to see just how many large bodies are out there floating about in the inner solar system, the plot does give a false impression of the actual density of the solar system. A graphic or applet with zoom capability would be useful to illustrate the true scale of the distances between these objects (hmm.. a Google Maps project perhaps?)
Good point about the deceptiveness of the density. That should have been made clearer than it was in the original post. Thanks for offering your insights.
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