Exploratour - Evolution of the Solar System

This is a drawing which shows where the Kuiper Belt may be located.
Click on image for full size

Beyond the orbit of Pluto is a region which contains more planetismal-sized objects. The objects are usually very small, 10-50 km across, and not very bright. It takes hundreds of years for these objects to complete an orbit around the sun. Because they move so slowly, detecting them is difficult. Where these objects came from and how they got there is still a mystery, but they probaby condensed with the planets as part of the original solar nebula. They may even be the remnants of planetismals themselves! The region is called the Kuiper Belt, after Gerard Kuiper who postulated its existence in 1951.

This picture shows the region of space where the Kuiper Belt is postulated to exist. In this picture, the observer is looking down on the solar system from above. The picture shows a region from the sun to 120 AU. The earth is so close to the center of the drawing that it does not show up.

The first object in the Kuiper Belt was discovered in 1992, proving that Gerard Kuiper's theory of 1951 was correct. Since then many objects have been discovered in this region, which is sometimes called "trans-Neptunian space" because even the planet Pluto could really be a Kuiper Belt object.

This is page 16 of 60

You might also be interested in:

Cool It! Game

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

Even though the sleeping man is no longer on the bed, you can still see where he was lying down. The heat from his body warmed up the bed sheets which are now radiating infrared light toward your eyes....more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

All warm objects radiate in the infrared. The warmer the object, the higher the frequency and intensity of the radiation. Very hot objects give off other types of radiation in addition to infrared. Click...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

Your eye is a wonderful detector of visible light. Different frequencies of light produce different sensations in the eye which we interpret as colors. Our eyes detect light by using light sensitive components...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

Imagine you found a pair of special glasses that not only gave you telescopic vision but gave you the ability to see all forms of radiant energy. The universe in visible light contains all the familiar...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

This is a volcano on the island of Miyake in Japan. It has erupted, sending hot lava and ash into the air, a total of ten times. The time after one eruption until the next occurred was about twenty years...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

The awesome power of a giant black hole was revealed by looking at this galaxy in three different types of light. The picture that you see is of Centaurus A, a very peculiar galaxy. A galaxy is just a...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

This is a plant in Gary, Indiana where power is made. We use power to run things like television sets, radios, lights, and microwave ovens. The picture looks very strange because it was taken in infrared....more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA