Kuiper Belt Definition and Facts


We will explain in this article How the Kuiper belt has been discovered,who discovered the Kuiper Belt and all relevant detailed information about it.

Thanks to the researches by the Hubble telescope, there is great progress in the mapping of our solar system. Until recently we had a fairly stable picture of our solar system; the Sun in the center surrounded by nine plants. The most distant planet, Pluto, was discovered in 1930 and the strange object Chiron In 1977. However, it was discovered that it could not properly be identifed. Only in 1992 did it become clear that Chiron was a Centaur from the Kuiper Belt. In the 1940’s, this huge disk with large and small chunks of ice was put forward as a hypothesis by the Dutch astronomer Gerard Kuiper. At this time it could only be mapped gradually. This led to a revision in 2006 of the definition of a planet. It is presently assumed that there are eight planets rotating around the sun.


 The Kuiper Belt Definition

The Kuiper Belt is a very large asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and beyond the orbit of Neptune. In contrast, the asteroid belt is composed of rocky objects such as ice and metal while the Kuiper belt consists mainly of frozen volatile gasses. These gases include: Methane, Ammonia, and Water. Among these ices are planet-like objects, such as the dwarf planets Pluto (called a planet before 2006), Haumea and Makemake. All of them belong to the so-called “Kuiper Belt”, which has a regular disk shape and dynamic equilibrium exhibits.

Number of objects in the Kuiper Belt

Since the discovery of this belt there are over a thousand documented Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs). It is estimated that there are a total of 70,000 objects with a diameter greater than 100 kilometers. The Kuiper Belt is between thirty and fifty astronomical units from the Sun. An Astronomical Unit is the distance between the Sun and Earth. That is about 150 million kilometers. The Oort cloud is quite different than the Kuiper Belt and is even further away by a thousand times.

Scattered disc around the Kuiper Belt

The ‘scattered disk’ around the classic belt is the presumed origin of various types of comets. This highly dynamic region of the solar system was formed 4.5 billion years ago by the outward motion of Neptune. The most famous object in this disk is currently the dwarf planet Eris, the largest object in the Kuiper belt and only slightly larger than Pluto. In comparison, both are a third smaller than our Moon, which again is six times smaller than our Earth.


Near Pluto, which has enjoyed ‘planet’ status for 76 years and according to the mythology is called ‘Lord of the Underworld’ (Hades in Greek), are dwarf planets called ‘Plutoïden’ when their circulation has the same relationship to Neptune. Three orbits around the Sun by Neptun equal two orbits of Pluto or Plutoid around the sun.

Origin of the Kuiper Belt

The Kuiper Belt, which may arise from the protoplanetary disk around the sun was at an early stage of development in our solar system. During its formation it was strongly influenced by the gravity of Jupiter and Neptune. Even more so by Uranus and Neptune, now the most distant planets. This probably occured within the orbit of Saturn or near Jupiter, and was later pushed outwards. Due to the interaction between Jupiter and Saturn (2: 1) Neptune moved further away on the planetesimale oerschijf. This is called the “job displacement” of Neptune, followed by the lower orbit shift of Uranus. The oerschijf was temporarily chaotic by the shift of these heavy bodies. Later it re-stabilized, but it was stretched and further away from the Sun near the current Kuiper Belt.


After the stabilization of Neptune it pulled several KBOs within its orbit. They come from an area beyond the planets, but nowadays remain within the planetary disk. By expressing this dual nature they are called Centaurs. In Greek mythology that is a half-human and half-horse creature. They are described as having highly elliptical orbits between Neptune and Jupiter.