The asteroid belt is the circumstellar disc in the Solar System located roughly between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter. It is occupied by numerous irregularly shaped bodies called asteroids or minor planets, the asteroid belt is also termed the main asteroid belt or main belt to distinguish it from other asteroid populations in the Solar System such as near-Earth asteroids and trojan asteroids. About half the mass of the belt is contained in the four largest asteroids, Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, the total mass of the asteroid belt is approximately 4% that of the Moon, or 22% that of Pluto, and roughly twice that of Plutos moon Charon. Ceres, the belts only dwarf planet, is about 950 km in diameter, whereas Vesta, Pallas. The remaining bodies range down to the size of a dust particle, the asteroid material is so thinly distributed that numerous unmanned spacecraft have traversed it without incident. Nonetheless, collisions between large asteroids do occur, and these can form a family whose members have similar orbital characteristics. Individual asteroids within the belt are categorized by their spectra. The asteroid belt formed from the solar nebula as a group of planetesimals. Planetesimals are the precursors of the protoplanets. Between Mars and Jupiter, however, gravitational perturbations from Jupiter imbued the protoplanets with too much energy for them to accrete into a planet. Collisions became too violent, and instead of fusing together, the planetesimals, as a result,99. 9% of the asteroid belts original mass was lost in the first 100 million years of the Solar Systems history. Some fragments eventually found their way into the inner Solar System, Asteroid orbits continue to be appreciably perturbed whenever their period of revolution about the Sun forms an orbital resonance with Jupiter. At these orbital distances, a Kirkwood gap occurs as they are swept into other orbits. Classes of small Solar System bodies in other regions are the objects, the centaurs, the Kuiper belt objects, the scattered disc objects, the sednoids. On 22 January 2014, ESA scientists reported the detection, for the first definitive time, of water vapor on Ceres, the detection was made by using the far-infrared abilities of the Herschel Space Observatory. The finding was unexpected because comets, not asteroids, are considered to sprout jets. According to one of the scientists, The lines are becoming more and more blurred between comets and asteroids. This pattern, now known as the Titius–Bode law, predicted the semi-major axes of the six planets of the provided one allowed for a gap between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter
By far the largest object within the belt is Ceres. The total mass of the asteroid belt is significantly less than Pluto's, and approximately twice that of Pluto's moon Charon.
Johannes Kepler, who first noticed in 1596 that there was something strange about the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
Giuseppe Piazzi, discoverer of Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. For several decades after its discovery Ceres was known as a planet, after which it was reclassified as asteroid. In 2006, it was designated as a dwarf planet.
951 Gaspra, the first asteroid imaged by a spacecraft, as viewed during Galileos 1991 flyby; colors are exaggerated