Kuiper Belt Facts

Kuiper Belt Facts
The Kuiper Belt is a region beyond Neptune's orbit in the Solar System. Most of the objects in orbit in the Kuiper Belt are 'ices' which are frozen gases, as well as dwarf planets. The Kuiper Belt is also referred to as the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt, after astronomer Kenneth Edgeworth who proposing the idea of the icy bodies orbiting beyond Neptune, and astronomer Gerard Kuiper who believed the belt existed but had long ago vanished. The Kuiper Belt is an elliptical plane and its span is 4.5 to 7.4 billion kilometers from the sun. The Kuiper belt is similar to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter but the Kuiper Belt's objects are icier and there are thousands of 100+ kilometer objects within this belt.
Interesting Kuiper Belt Facts:
The ices of the Kuiper Belt are frozen gases such as nitrogen, ammonia, methane, and even water.
The larger icy objects found in the Kuiper Belt are smaller than planets but larger than asteroids and are therefore referred to as dwarf planets.
The Kuiper Belt includes Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake, which are considered to be dwarf planets.
Pluto, now considered to be a dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt, was once classified as our Solar System's 9th planet. It wasn't until 1992 and another Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) was discovered that astronomers began to realize that the belt existed.
In 2004 another Kuiper Belt Object was discovered. It is another dwarf planet called Sedna and is only 75% the size of Pluto.
In 2005 another Kuiper Belt Object was discovered. This dwarf planet is called Eris and it is smaller than Pluto. It takes Eris 580 years to revolve around the sun.
Once Eris was discovered astronomers realized that Pluto was really a KBO and not a true planet and it lost its status as the 9th planet in the Solar System.
The Kuiper Belt was formed at the same time as the Solar System. As the planets and sun were formed the remaining gases, dust, and rocks either burned up in the sun or swept to the outer Solar System. As the objects in the outer Solar System began to orbit they formed the Kuiper Belt.
The busiest region of the Kuiper Belt, between 42 and 48 astronomical units from the sun, is called Classic Kuiper Belt.
One astronomical unit is the distance between the earth and the sun.
Known Kuiper Belt Objects are now over 1000, but it is believed that more than 100,000 KBOs exist that are at least 62 miles in diameter.
The objects in the Kuiper Belt are so far from earth that they are not visible from earth. NASA has developed a space-based telescope called Spitzer that utilizes infrared measurements to determine the sizes of larger KBOs.
In 2006 a spacecraft called New Horizons was launched to explore the Kuiper belt. It flew past Pluto on July 14th, 2015.
New Horizons saw KBO 1994 JR1 on December 2, 2015 from a distance of 170 million miles. New Horizons captured photographs of the KBO with a few details. More images are expected as the spacecraft continues its journey.


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