The orbits of more than 14 000 asteroids in our Solar System, as viewed by ESA’s Gaia satellite using information from the mission’s second data release. The orbits of Earth and Jupiter are indicated for reference; the Sun is at the centre.
In the view on the left, the orbits are colour-coded depending on how close the asteroids get to the Sun: near-Earth asteroids show up as blue and violet, asteroids in the Main Belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter are yellow and green, and Trojan asteroids, found around the orbit of Jupiter, are red and orange.
In the view on the right, the orbits are colour-coded depending on the reflecting properties of the asteroid surface, or albedo. Dark asteroids with high albedo (in red) dominate the external regions, while brighter objects (with intermediate albedo in yellow and green, and high albedo in blue and violet) are found in the inner main belt; near-Earth asteroids show a variety of different albedos.
The information on albedo comes from NASA’s Wide Infrared Space Explorer mission. In future data releases, Gaia will also provide asteroid spectra and enable a complete characterisation of the asteroid belt. The combination of dynamical and physical information that is being collected by Gaia provides an unprecedented opportunity to improve our understanding of the origin and the evolution of the Solar System.
Acknowledgement: Gaia Data Processing and Analysis Consortium (DPAC); Gaia Coordinating Unit 4; P. Tanga, Observatoire de la Côte d'Azur, France; F. Spoto, IMCCE, Observatoire de Paris, France; NASA/WISE (right image).