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Kuiper Belt

The Kuiper Belt is often called our Solar System's 'final frontier.' This disk-shaped region of icy debris is about 4.5 to 7.5 billion km (2.8 billion to 4.6 billion miles), 30 to 50 Astronomical Units (AU). from our Sun. Its existence confirmed only a decade ago, the Kuiper Belt and its collection of icy objects - KBOs - are an emerging area of research in planetary science. No spacecraft has ever traveled to the Kuiper Belt, but NASA's New Horizons mission, planned to arrive at Pluto in 2015, might be able to penetrate farther into the Kuiper Belt to study one of these mysterious objects

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    Kuiper Belt:   In 1950, Dutch astronomer Jan Oort proposed that certain comets came from a vast spherical shell of icy bodies near the edge of the Solar System.... More »

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Kuiper Belt Last Updated on 2009-12-03 00:00:00 Kuiper Belt:   In 1950, Dutch astronomer Jan Oort proposed that certain comets came from a vast spherical shell of icy bodies near the edge of the Solar System. This giant swarm of objects is now named the Oort Cloud, occupying space at a distance between 5,000 and 100,000 astronomical units. (One astronomical unit, or AU, is the mean distance of Earth from the Sun: about 150 million kilometers or 93 million miles.) The Oort Cloud contains billions of icy bodies in solar orbit. Occasionally, passing stars disturb the orbit of one of these bodies, causing it to come streaking into the inner solar system as a long-period comet. These comets have very large orbits and are observed in the inner solar system only once. In contrast, short-period comets take less than 200 years to orbit the Sun and they travel along the plane in which most of the planets orbit. They come from... More »
The Influence of Mean Motion Resonances on the Outer Kuiper Belt: Does the Outer Kuiper Belt have a Future? Last Updated on 2009-01-06 00:00:00 It often seems as though papers bearing titles in the form of a question end with ambiguous answers.  Here the situation is different: the outer Kuiper belt does have a definite future, although one of an unknown duration.  Simulations provide two distinct, compelling reasons.  First, mean motion resonances in the outer belt [beyond the 1:2 resonance at 47.76 AU] are amazingly "sticky": in almost all cases, bodies captured in them from regions closer to Neptune during that planet's outward migration, remain trapped for 4.6 byrs.  Most captured orbits are chaotic and so will eventually escape, but there's no reason to believe that all outer belt resonances will empty in the near future.  Second, in determining capture probabilities for various resonances, we find that the first order 1:2 resonance is quite efficient, but, in clear contrast to higher order ones... More »
Kuiper Belt Last Updated on 2008-03-05 00:00:00 Gerard Kuiper in 1951 argued that the rotating disk of dust and gas ("solar nebula") from which the planets condensed probably did not end abruptly with the relatively large mass of Neptune. Instead, it was possible that at the rarefied outer edge, material did not condense into single large planets but into many small ones. He turned out to have been right, but it was only in 1992 that the first "Kuiper Belt" object was found--or rather, the first one outside Pluto, which today is considered part of the belt too. That was when David Jewitt and Jane Luu discovered "1992 QB1" with diameter of 200 or 250 kilometers (see "The Kuiper Belt"  by Luu and Jewitt, Scientific American, May 1996, p. 47-52). The size of that dwarf planet was fairly typical for the belt, though many are bigger (see here) and at least one seems bigger then Pluto, too (see also here). Most orbit near the... More »