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FEATURE ARTICLE

Discovering the Edge of the Solar System

Recent discoveries suggest that planets larger than Pluto may exist in the outer reaches of our solar system

Chadwick Trujillo

Figure 4. The Kuiper belt formedClick to Enlarge Image

If you were to fly a spaceship to the outer edge of our solar system, just beyond the orbit of the planet Pluto, you would eventually pass through a field of icy bodies called the Kuiper Belt. Some of these are fairly small, about the size of a house, but others are nearly half the size of Pluto, itself a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO). The KBOs are interesting for a couple of reasons: They appear to be remnants from the formation of our solar system, and they're the source of the short-period comets, those that take less than 200 years to go around the Sun. Author Trujillo describes his recent discovery of a large KBO called Quaoar and discusses the tantalizing possibility that much larger objects might be out there.


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