Science of Star Wars: Asteroid Fields

Star Wars has given us many delightful moments dodging asteroids.  This fun isn’t quite realistic, but it’s fun to contemplate asteroid belts in our own solar system. 

In the Empire Strikes Back, we watch the Millennium Falcon enter an asteroid field to evade the Imperial star fleet.  The asteroid belt within our own solar system between Mars and Jupiter is far less ostentatious.

Our asteroid belt contains, in aggregate, less mass than that contained with Pluto.  The average distance between each object, then, is way large enough to accommodate Star Destroyers and TIE fighters.

But Empire was correct in depicting that there is a range of objects with a few of them being classified as “one of the bigger ones”.   The Dwarf planet Ceres is the largest object in the Asteroid belt.  Vesta is the second largest (and is the largest asteroid).  These are interesting locations as they allow us to see how the larger planets would have appeared during their formative periods.

The Dawn spacecraft provided our first views of Ceres and Vesta :

Ceres from Dawn Spacecraft
Vesta from Dawn Spacecraft

These shots are interesting as they show both the long history of impacts, but also a varied surface composition.

 

Could a very dense asteroid belt such as what we see in Empire really exist?

The answer is probably not.  While see evidence of collisions, the amount of mass per unit volume in the space within our solar system is just very low.

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