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Question

Why do asteroids leave the asteroid belt in the first place?
Asked by: Amir

Answer

Any multibody gravitational system is a chaotic system; the non-linear dynamics involved in the motions of the bodies causes there to be multiple stable, repeating states (i.e. orbits). Gravitational interactions between the bodies can induce a transition from one stable state to another- in other words, the gravitational pulls of neighbors can sometimes slingshot asteroids out of stable, near circular orbits near the ecliptic plane and into erratic, eccentric orbits at various angles around the sun. The large number of objects in the solar system makes the number of possible minute fluctuations in position and velocity innumerable, and the interactions between bodies allow even small initial differences to quickly lead to drastic changes in orbit.
Answered by: Rob Landolfi, Science Teacher, Washington, DC
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