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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

You Can’t Wear the Kuiper Belt

You Can’t Wear the Kuiper Belt

It’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s home to millions, maybe even billions, of ice-covered chunks of rock. No, it isn’t your driveway in the wintertime; it’s the Kuiper belt, a remote section of our Solar System, beyond the planet Neptune.

The Kuiper belt (Kuiper rhymes with “viper”) was named after astronomer Gerard Kuiper, who believed that a field of small objects existed at the outer edge of our Solar System. Astronomers theorized about this region of space for many decades until, in 1992, University of Hawaii astronomers David Jewitt and Jane Luu found a Kuiper belt Object, 1992 QB1, the first trans-Neptunian object to be discovered since Pluto and its moon, Charon. Since then, at least 800 Kuiper belt objects have been discovered, though that is just a tiny sampling of the countless objects astronomers believe reside there.

The Kuiper belt is located between 30 and 50 Astronomical Units from the Sun. One Astronomical Unit is equal to the distance between the Earth and the Sun – about 92,957,000 miles – so the Kuiper belt begins about 30 Earth distances from the Sun, and extends another 20 Earth distances beyond that!

It contains many different-sized lumps of rock and ice, which are called Kuiper belt objects. The largest of these are dwarf planets, like Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake. Many comets, some of which pass close to the Earth, are also believed to reside in the belt.

Scientists think the Kuiper belt was created by the planet Jupiter while it was still forming. They think the young planet’s gravity hurled the objects out to where they are now.

2 comments

1 USAclimatereporter { 08.09.12 at 6:45 pm }

space has a lot of stuff there and a lot of planets and everything some things are no even planets

2 Harry King { 03.06.11 at 7:02 am }

Thank You Jaime for taking subjects that are often presented in complicated
scientific terms and making it easy to understand.I like your wit (the driveway and wearing the “Kupier Belt”). Once again thank you for what you do.

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.