The Big Mystery of the Kuiper Belt — a Lack of Small Objects

The Kuiper Belt contains few small bodies, according to a new report from the Southwest Research Institute. This collection of rocks and ice surrounds our planetary system like a massive doughnut, larger than the orbit of Neptune. Photographs taken of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, show few craters, suggesting that the Kuiper Belt, in which Pluto resides, contains few small objects, less than a mile in diameter. Researchers are uncertain why the grouping contains so few small bodies.

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A Giant Red Snowman in Space? New Horizons Returns First Color Images of Ultima Thule

The New Horizons spacecraft made a close encounter with Ultima Thule on New Year’s Day, making this the most distant body ever visited by a robotic explorer. The color images returned by the vehicle show the object resembles a red-colored snowman 31 kilometers (19 miles) in length. Exploration of Ultima Thule could help astronomers answer mysteries about comets and the formation of the Solar System. New Horizons made history in 2015, when it became the first spacecraft to visit Pluto.

Read More A Giant Red Snowman in Space? New Horizons Returns First Color Images of Ultima Thule

New Horizons Races Toward Encounter with Ultima Thule — Most Distant World Ever Studied

The New Horizons spacecraft is racing toward an encounter with the most-distant object ever visited by humans. Ultima Thule is a member of the Kuiper Belt, a collection of icy, rocky bodies at the edge of our planetary system, well beyond the orbit of the most distant planet, Neptune. New Horizons made history in 2015, when it became the first spacecraft to visit Pluto. The encounter will occur on New Year’s Day.

Read More New Horizons Races Toward Encounter with Ultima Thule — Most Distant World Ever Studied