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Discovering the Edge of the Solar System



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Abstract:

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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