Kuiper Belt

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Kuiper Belt is a disc-shaped region of icy objects beyond the orbit of Neptune in our solar system. It is also called Edgeworth–Kuiper Belt.

Kuiper Belt Picture

Outer Solar System and Kuiper Belt


Kuiper Belt Facts

Orbit: It takes hundreds of years for these objects to complete one orbit around the Sun.
Object Size: Most of the objects are small, typically 10-50 km across.
Largest Object: Eris
Dwarf Planets : There are 3 official dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt and they are: Pluto, Haumea and Makemake


Pluto and Eris are the best known of these icy worlds. Pluto and the Moons of Pluto are extremely large members of the Kuiper belt.

There may be hundreds more of these ice dwarfs out there. The Kuiper Belt and even more distant Oort Cloud are believed to be the home of comets that orbit our sun.

The Kuiper Belt extends from about 30 to 55 AU and is probably populated with hundreds of thousands of icy bodies larger than 100 km (62 miles) across and an estimated trillion or more comets. The Asteroid Belt is similar to the Kuiper Belt, however its objects are rocky than icy.

Viewing

Detecting the Kuiper Belt Objects is difficult because they are very faint and move so slowly.

Discovery

The first Kuiper Belt Object was discovered in 1992.

How the Kuiper Belt Names

Kuiper Belt is named for astronomer Gerard Kuiper who predicted their existence. Objects discovered in the Kuiper Belt get their names from diverse mythologies.

Missions to the Kuiper Belt

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is designed to make the first close-up study of Pluto and its moons and other icy worlds in the distant Kuiper Belt. It arrived at Pluto on 14 July 14, 2015 and is now heading to 2014 MU69 and  will fly past on January 1, 2019.


History

Pluto was the first true Kuiper Belt Object to be viewed.

Sedna was discovered in 2004.

Eris

Most of the objects are small, typically 10-50 km across. Until 2005, Pluto was the largest member. In 2005, Eris was discovered. At the time of discovery it was known as 2003 UB313, scientists nicknamed it “Xena” (after the warrior princess in the hit TV series) until they could give it a proper name, Eris.


Did you know?

* 1 AU is equal to the average distance between Earth and the Sun, about 150 million km (93 million miles).

* The Oort Cloud probably contains 0.1 to 2 trillion icy bodies in solar orbit.

Related:

  • Books on the Planets
  • At the Edge of the Solar System: Icy New Worlds Unveiled (Springer Praxis Books / Popular Astronomy) [Paperback] by A. Doressoundiram (Author), Emmanuel Lellouch (Author)
    from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca
  • Exploring the Kuiper Belt and the Trans-Neptunian Region

Kuiper Belt Links


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