Can we smash together all of the asteroids to build a new planet?

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Let’s be honest: the asteroid belt is a bit of a mess. It’s full of big rocks hurtling around at high speeds, occasionally getting tossed towards assorted planets, and generally causing a ruckus. On this episode of Dead Planets Society, our hosts Chelsea Whyte and Leah Crane have decided to embark on a solar system cleanup mission: to unify the asteroid belt into a single rocky world.

But it’s not as easy as just stirring up the asteroid belt and hoping everything smashes together. For the asteroids to stick together instead of just creating even more asteroids, they have to collide at a relatively slow speed. A huge funnel might work to make sure they all get squished together. Or maybe an injection of aerogel across the entire asteroid belt could slow them down and eventually bring them to a gentle halt – though the ring itself could make it difficult to explore the outer solar system, and it could have some nasty effects on Earth’s wildlife, too.

Leah and Chelsea were joined for this episode by planetary astronomers Andy Rivkin at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and Kat Volk at the University of Arizona.

Dead Planets Society is a podcast that takes outlandish ideas about how to tinker with the cosmos – from putting out the sun to causing a gravitational wave apocalypse – and subjects them to the laws of physics to see how they fare.

To listen, subscribe to New Scientist Weekly or visit our podcast page here.

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