In the dimly lit spaces of our solar system beyond Neptune’s orbit lies the Kuiper Belt. This a region between about 35 and 50 times further from the sun than the Earth, populated by icy bodies so sparsely distributed that they never had the chance to collide and merge into planet sized objects.
Pluto has been the focus of a lot of attention for more than a decade now. This began shortly after the discovery of Eris in the Kuiper Belt, one of many Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) that led to the “Great Planetary Debate” and the 2006 IAU Resolution. Interest in Pluto also increased considerably thanks to the New Horizons mission, which conducted the first flyby of this “dwarf planet” in July of 2015.
Rosetta’s Comet hails from a cold, dark place. Using statistical analysis and scientific computing, astronomers at Western University in Canada have charted a path that most likely pinpoints comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s long-ago home in the far reaches of the Kuiper Belt, a vast region beyond Neptune home to icy asteroids and comets.
The Kuiper Belt has been an endless source of discoveries over the course of the past decade. Starting with the dwarf planet Eris, which was first observed by a Palomar Observatory survey led by Mike Brown in 2003, many interesting Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) have been discovered, some of which are comparable in size to Pluto
There’s a real buzz among planetary scientists after a new study suggested that an unseen planet, dubbed “Planet Nine”, of about ten times the Earth’s mass could be lurking in the Kuiper belt, a band of icy objects beyond Neptune. The latest theory was put forward after scientists noticed that six objects in the belt were behaving strangely, something that they said could be explained by the existence of a new planet.
Science fiction movies about aliens threatening the Earth routinely ascribe them the motive of coming here to steal our resources, most often our water. This is ill thought-out, as water is actually extremely common. Any civilisation coming to our solar system in need of water (either to drink or to make rocket fuel) would be foolish to plunge all the way inwards to the Earth, from where they’d have to haul their booty back against the pull of the sun’s gravity.