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Asteroid Main-Belt Distribution

This histogram clearly shows the primary Kirkwood gaps in the asteroid main-belt. These gaps (labeled "3:1", "5:2", "7:3", "2:1") are caused by mean-motion resonances between an asteroid and Jupiter. For example, the 3:1 Kirkwood gap is located where the ratio of an asteroid's orbital period to that of Jupiter is 3/1 (the asteroid completes 3 orbits for every 1 orbit of Jupiter). The effect of these mean-motion resonances is a change in the asteroid's orbital elements (particularly semimajor axis) sufficient to create these gaps in semimajor axis space.

Main-Belt Asteroid Distribution

This graph was created in June 2007 using all asteroids with "well-determined" orbits (specifically, 156929 numbered asteroids).

A Postscript version of this plot is also available.

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