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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Trans-Neptunian Objects: The Kuiper Belt, Oort Cloud, and Conspiracy Theories

Hi everyone and thanks for stopping by. I hope you are as excited as I am regarding our world and our place in it. We are truly in a new Age of Discovery as we search out the mysterious of our universe hidden since time began.

We recognize eight planets in our solar system, the furthest being Neptune which is the fourth-largest planet by diameter and the third-largest by mass. Beyond Neptune are what is referred to as Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNO) which include minor planets like Pluto and other rocky and icy objects that orbit our sun. 

Kuiper Belt: A disc-shaped region beyond Neptune extending from 30 – 55 astronomical units (AU). An AU is the approximate distance from the Sun to Earth, or 93 million miles. There are over a half million icy and rocky TNOs we know of so far with and close to 100,000 having a diameter of at least 100 kilometers (62 miles). There are probably hundreds of thousands more yet to be discovered along with a trillion or so comets. There are four dwarf planets that we know of. Most comets that take less than 200 years to orbit the sun are believed to be in the Kuiper Belt. 

Astronomers think the frozen objects in the Kuiper Belt may hold clues about the origin of our solar system - sort of like how fossils tell the story of dinosaurs on Earth. Scientists think the gravity of big planets like Jupiter and Saturn swept all these icy leftovers out to the edge of our solar system. 


Oort Cloud: In 1950, Dutch astronomer Jan Oort suggested that some of the comets entering the solar system come from a cloud of icy bodies, ammonia, and methane that may lie as far as 100,000 times Earth's distance from the sun. It is believed that this cloud of particles are the remains of the disc material which formed the Sun and the eight planets. 

When its inhabitants interact with stars, molecular clouds, and gravity from the galaxy, they may find themselves spiraling inward toward the sun, or cast completely out of the solar system into distant regions of space. The Oort’s Cloud extreme distance makes it challenging for scientists to identify objects within it. Comets with orbits longer than 200 years originate from the Oort Cloud and can be as far as three light years from the sun. 

Some astronomers theorize the Sun may have captured the material in the Oort Cloud from outer disks of other stars that formed in the same nebula as our star. The planetoid Sedna, discovered in 2003, is thought to reside here. 

Conspiracy Theories: There is a conspiracy theory NASA knows of a mysterious unnamed planet lurking beyond Pluto. The scientific claims were based on observations of gravitational influences on a group of space bodies termed the “extreme trans-Neptunian objects” (ETNOs) orbiting our Sun beyond the planet Neptune. It's coming our way and spells certain doom for us, but our government is keeping it a secret. Yes, there is quite a following on this one. For more on this Click Here

Did You Know: The New Horizons spacecraft is now heading toward the Kuiper Belt to an object named 2014 MU69 a billion miles away from Pluto, It is set to arrive in January 2019. The object is about fifteen miles wide and is small enough that it has not been modified by geologic processes and is far enough away from the sun’s influence that it likely has maintained its original composition. New Horizons will then keep going until it runs out of fuel. 

Fun Facts: Astronomers have found structures similar to our Kuiper Belt around at least nine other stars using the Hubble Space Telescope. 

My name is Stephen Tremp and I’m a writer of speculative fiction. My fourth novel, Salem’s Daughters, is set for release October 1st. To pre-order a copy for $2.99 Click Here

References 

18 comments:

  1. Dear Stephen,
    wonderful post! Congratulations on your book!
    jean

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    1. Thank you Jean Glad you like the post. I can;t get enough of this suff!

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  2. Those distances are so hard to conceive. One AU is a lot and then you talk about 5,000 - 100,000 AU, it's just incredible. I wonder if there really is a doomsday planet on it's way? I guess I will never know.

    Good luck with your book launch.

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    1. Jo, And to thin our galaxy and other galaxies can interact with each other, gravitationally speaking, and effect each other to some degree. Fascinating!

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  3. Big congrats on your book...and always love your posts...so informative.

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    1. Leigh, glad you like the posts and I'm here every first and third Thursday of the month.

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  4. This warms the cockles of a former science teacher's heart. Whatever cockles are of course. I think I will buy your book. Then look up what cockles are. That is an adorable picture of you.

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    1. Ann, it's Throwback Thursday so I thought the pic was perfect for today.

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  5. If there is a small planet headed our way, we'll all be long gone by the time it gets here anyway.

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    1. Alex, Uranus (the planet, that is) orbits on its side, with its axis tilted nearly perpendicular to the Sun. Astronomers think it collided with one or more planets, but that theory had to be revised because of the orbits of its moons. Anyway, we can see what happens when planets collide and it is no bueno.

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  6. I fixed the broken link for the space conspiracy theory.

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  7. Cute picture I'm assuming of you and the lamb cake (which is hard to make). All great facts you shared with us :)

    betty

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    1. Betty, my mom made that cake for my fifth birthday. It had coconut frosting.

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  8. Hi Stephen - space is just extraordinary ... we're learning more, yet discover new anomalies ... but it's fun seeing what they find out .. and seeing the photos etc ...

    Love you and the lamb cake ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Thanks Hilary for stopping by and saying hello!

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  9. I'm not going add the planet hurling our direction to my list of concerns. I'm working on the theory that it's going to take a huge chunk of time for it to reach us.

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    1. Cheryl, I love conspiracy theories because they are a great source of ideas for stories.

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  10. Wonderful post. I love the images you used.

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