| home | site map | about context | lang >>> español |
>>> context weblog
  science > cosmos > solar system > discovery
august 11, 2000 |
edgeworth-kuiper belt latest discoveries

During an invited lecture at the International Astronomical Union XXIVth General Assembly, Dr. Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute made an introduction to the latest discoveries about this region of space.

"This region is planetary science's equivalent of an archeological dig into the history of the ancient outer solar system," he reports. The *Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt* , first discussed in the 1940s and early 1950s by astronomers Kenneth Edgeworth and Gerard Kuiper, was discovered by telescope in 1992 by David Jewitt and Luu.

Because of the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt's isolation and its distance from the warmth of the sun, which can drive chemical reactions, it serves as a kind of "time capsule," teaching astronomers about the early solar system.

Stern will describe the lessons gleaned from Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt studies:
- The discovery that the solar system, like many now seen around other stars, is surrounded by a belt or disk of debris and small planets.
- The discovery that Pluto is not an oddity beyond the planets, but is instead a miniature planet itself, and is the "king of the Kuiper Belt."
- The discovery that most short-period comets -- those comets with orbits of less than 200 years and which are known to originate in the Edgworth-Kuiper Belt -- are recently created fragments from collisions between the larger icy objects in this region, not ancient relics as previously thought.
- The discovery that early in the solar system's history, the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt was apparently 100 or more times more massive and populous than it is today.
The Edgeworth-KuiperBelt and the Early Solar System (IAU JD4.005)
  | home | site map | about context | lang > español |

context weblog >>>