What is the Kuiper Belt?
The Kuiper Belt (pronounced KYE-PER) is a disk of icy debris extending outwards from the orbit of Neptune at 30 AU to 55 AU from the Sun. Also known as the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt, this region had been hypothesized variedly for decades but it was only in 1992 that direct evidence of its existence was found for the first time. However, there is still uncertainty who deserves credit for its discovery.
Similar to the asteroid belt, the Kuiper Belt is mainly composed of small bodies. It is highly likely that the Kuiper Belt objects are primitive remnants from the formation of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. Frozen volatiles or "ices" such as water, ammonia, and methane are what comprise the Kuiper belt. It is believed that the belt and the even more distant Oort Cloud are the sources of comets that orbit the Sun , acting as a resevoir for these objects. Since 2006 there have been discoveries of several other kuiper belts in other solar systems dividing into two types: wide belts, with a radii of over 50 AU, and narrow belts, with a radii ranging from 20 AU to 30 AU.
Discovery of the Kuiper Belt
- 1943: Astronomer Kenneth Edgeworth suggests that a reservoir of comets and larger bodies resides beyond the planets.
- 1950: Astronomer Jan Oort theorizes that a vast population of comets may exist in a huge cloud on the distant edges of our solar system.
- 1951: Astronomer Gerard Kuiper predicts the existence of a belt of icy objects just beyond the orbit of Neptune.
- 1992: After five years of searching, astronomers David Jewitt and Jane Luu discover the first KBO (Kuiper Belt object), 1992QB1.
KBOs - Kuiper Belt Objects
A Kuiper Belt Object is any of many minor planets in the Kuiper belt outside the orbit of Neptune at the edge of the solar system. Since the belt was discovered in 1992, the number of known Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) has increased to over a thousand, and more than 70,000 KBOs are over 100 km (62 mi) in diameter. Some of the largest KBOs include Quaoar, Haumea, Eris, Pluto, and Makemake. Most of the large bodies of the Kuiper Belt consist mainly of ice and gases.
Quaoar- Discoverd in 2002, Quaoar's diameter is roughly 1300 km (800 mi). Quaoar is about 4 billion miles away from Earth, which is the farthest object in the solar system
to be resolved by a telescope.
Haumea- Discovered in 2003, Haumea is believed to have a mass that is one-third that of Pluto and is roughly the same size as Pluto. It takes 285 years for Haumea to make one orbit around the Sun. Haumea is one of the fastest rotating objects in our solar systen and completes a full turn on its axis every 4 hours; Due to the fast rotation, the planet has become elongated in shape and is one of the strangest shaped dwarf planets that has been discovered in our Solar System.
Eris- The detection of Eris in 2005 provoked debate about Pluto's classification as a planet. It has a diameter between 2400 and 3000 km (1490 mi to 1860 mi) and is 27% more massive than Pluto. Eris is the most distant object ever seen in orbit around the Sun. It is almost 10 billion miles from the Sun, more than 3 times more distant than Pluto, and takes more than twice as long to orbit the Sun as Pluto; It has an orbital period of 556.7 y
Pluto - In August 2006, Pluto was demoted to under the classification as a "dwarf planet." Discovered in 1930, Pluto is still considered one of the largest members of the Kuiper Belt region. The dwarf planet is about 1413 miles in diameter and 3.7 billion miles away from the Sun.
Makemake- Currently, the second brightest Kuiper Belt object to be seen by the naked eye after Pluto is Makemake; Makemake's diameter is estimated to be between 1,360-1,480 km (smaller than Pluto and Eris). Because of its distance, Makemake takes about 310 years to orbit the Sun.
Ninth Planet- On January 20, 2016 astronomers have found evidence, in terms of many calculations and simulations, revealing there to be a super massive planet hiding in the Kuiper belt. It has a mass 10 times that of our own Earth and is orbiting the sun in an extremely elongated elliptical that is 20 times farther away from the sun than Neptune is. It's existence would explain a few features of objects in the Kuiper Belt for example many objects in the Kuiper Belt are tilted to the same degree which rarely occurs at random. Also on the subject of any other objects colliding with the massive planet it seems to effectively control the other objects' orbits with it gravitational pull and slow orbit taking 10 to 20 thousand years.
- Beyond the orbit of Neptune
- An icy body
Woosah (Project Plan)
I plan on keeping some of the existing information but rephrase and reorder most of it so that it has some sense of organization. I will add more up-to-date pictures and insert at least one video. Most of the information is very general, so I'd like to go into detail about certain aspects of the belt. Besides minor spelling and grammatical errors that I want to fix, I'm going to clean up the layout of the page so that it is more organized. I am also going to try to make the descriptions and information easier to understand and follow so that it is clear and concise. I will also take out any unneccesary information that I feel strays from the main focus of the page.