Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Kuiper Belt

The Kuiper Belt is names after its discoverer Gerard Kuiper in 1992. This is the area beyond the orbit of Jupiter, but still under the gravitational pull of our Sun. It contains Pluto, other dwarf planets, and miscellaneous icy objects.
 
It is similar to the Asteroid Belt, but it is far larger—20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive. Like the asteroid belt, it consists mainly of small bodies, or remnants from the Solar System's formation. Although some asteroids are composed primarily of rock and metal, most Kuiper belt objects are composed largely of frozen volatiles (termed "ices"), such as methane, ammonia and water.
 
The classical belt is home to at least three dwarf planets: Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake. Some of the Solar System's moons, such as Neptune's Triton and Saturn’s Phoebe, are also believed to have originated in the region
 
In 2006 NASA dispatched an ambassador to the planetary frontier: The New Horizons spacecraft, now more than halfway between Earth and Pluto, is on approach for a dramatic flight past the icy dwarf planet and its moons in July 2015. It's mission is to find the origin of Pluto and it's moon Charon.
 
After 10 years and more than 3 billion miles, on a historic voyage that has already taken it over the storms and around the moons of Jupiter, New Horizons will shed light on new kinds of worlds on the outskirts of the solar system.
 
Pluto gets closer by the day, and New Horizons continues into rare territory, as just the fifth probe to traverse interplanetary space so far from the sun. And the first ever to travel to Pluto
New Horizons Space Probe
 
Did You Know: An Astronomical Unit (AU) is 93,000,000 miles, or the distance from the Sun to the Earth.
 
Fun Facts: New Horizons is about 29 AU’s from Earth and about 3.5 AU’s from Pluto. It will take 4.5 hours to relay a transmission.