Solar system

Kuiper's belt

Kuiper's belt

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In 1951 the astronomer Gerard Kuiper postulated that there must be a kind of proto-comet disk, an asteroid belt, in the same plane of the Solar System

The Kuiper belt should be past the orbit of Neptune, approximately between 30 and 100 astronomical units. From this belt would come the short period comets.

From 1992, with the discovery of 1992 QB1 and the many others that have followed it, there was real evidence of the existence of a huge population of small icy bodies that orbit beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune.

Although the values ​​of the estimates are quite variable, it is estimated that there are at least 70,000 "trans-Neptunian" objects located between 30 and 50 astronomical units away from the Sun, with diameters greater than 100 km.

Beyond 50 AU, it is possible that there are more bodies of this type, but in any case their location is very difficult with current detection techniques. The observations also show that they are confined within a few degrees above or below the ecliptic plane. These objects are known as KBOs (Kuiper Belt Objects).

The study of the Kuiper belt is very interesting because it contains very primitive objects, from the first phases of accretion of the solar system, and because it seems to be the source of short-period comets, just as the Oort cloud is for of long period.

The Kuiper belt ceased to be a simple hypothesis when at the end of August 1992, with the 2.2-meter telescope of the University of Hawaii, David Jewitt and Jane Luu discovered a distant object about 280 km in diameter called 1992 QB1 . This was followed by a series of similar discoveries.

After the discovery of 1992 QB1, the study of trans-Neptunian objects has become a field of astronomy of very rapid evolution, with great advances in the theoretical field in recent years. The number of objects discovered is increasing and little by little new knowledge about their meaning and physical characteristics is being obtained.

In 2003, Eris (2003 UB313), the largest known dwarf planet, was discovered in the Kuiper Belt. He was probably dragged into the distant orbit that he now occupies by the gravitational influence of Neptune, while the Solar System was forming. It has a natural satellite called dysnomy.

Eris has a very eccentric orbit that completes every 557 years. Now it is almost the maximum possible distance from the Sun, about 14.5 billion kilometers. Like Pluto and its Charon satellite, Elis has icy methane on its surface. They are the only three bodies of the Kuiper Belt where it has been detected, which indicates that it must be extremely cold.

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Pluto is a dwarf planetCandidates for planets (transneptunians)