Polski
русский
Українська

NASA spacecraft detects something on the outskirts of the solar system that should not be there

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
Dust in the Kuiper belt is formed by collisions. Source: Getty/Dan Durda, FIAAA/collage by OBOZ.UA

The Kuiper belt, which contains hundreds of thousands of icy space bodies, may be much larger than previously thought. This is hinted at by data from the New Horizons spacecraft, which flew past Pluto 9 years ago.

This is stated in a statement released by the American space agency NASA. The study, based on data from New Horizons, was published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The Kuiper Belt is a region on the outskirts of the Solar System. It begins beyond the orbit of Neptune and is believed to extend to a distance of 58 AU or more (1 AU is the distance from the Sun to the Earth). In a sense, the Kuiper belt is similar to the asteroid belt, but it is about 20 times wider and much more massive – according to various estimates, 20-200 times.

The first object discovered from the belt was Pluto, which was initially considered a planet but was later deprived of this status. Subsequently, other dwarf planets and even smaller icy space bodies were also discovered there.

It is believed that this belt was formed as a result of Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter turning into a kind of defenders of the solar system, leaving all unwanted space guests circling in the cold outskirts of our system.

Now, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is flying through this belt and capturing something that scientists did not expect. Nine years ago, it flew past Pluto and since then has already advanced well through the Kuiper belt. It is believed to be already at 60 AU, but its Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter (SDC) instrument continues to detect high levels of dust.

As NASA explained, this is a symptom of the environment and could mean that the Kuiper belt is much larger than previously thought. However, real evidence of this has yet to be found.

Nevertheless, NASA is already reporting "a growing body of evidence that the outer edge of the main Kuiper belt may extend billions of kilometers further than current estimates suggest." Scientists also do not rule out the possibility that there may be another unknown belt beyond the Kuiper belt.

Earlier, Earth-based telescopes discovered several Kuiper Belt objects that exist beyond what is traditionally considered its outer edge, at a distance of about 50 AU. Together with the dust data from New Horizons, this may indicate that humanity underestimated the scale of the belt.

Dust in the Kuiper Belt can be formed when two objects hit each other, and, according to previous data, New Horizons should have been flying in an empty region for the last 10 AU.

Scientists now suggest that the outer edge may be 80 AU away, which means that the Kuiper belt itself is about 10 times larger than the distance between the Sun and Jupiter.

For 18 years, New Horizons has already traveled more than 8 billion kilometers, but it still has enough fuel to reach the limit of 100 AU from the Sun and work until the 2040s.

Subscribe to the OBOZ.UA channels in Telegram and Viber to keep up with the latest events.

Other News

How to change your eye shape with makeup: an effective way

How to change your eye shape with makeup: an effective way

Don't be afraid to experiment with cosmetics, look for new looks and enjoy the process
Eurovision 2024 final to be held in a new way: what has changed and how it was before

Eurovision 2024 final to be held in a new way: what has changed and how it was before

The draw of the finalists will be made differently
Scary as hell. This Netflix horror movie has been named one of the best adaptations of Stephen King's novels

Scary as hell. This Netflix horror movie has been named one of the best adaptations of Stephen King's novels

The plot contains unexpected moments and an atypical ending
What is wrong in the picture? Find the mistakes and show your IQ level

What is wrong in the picture? Find the mistakes and show your IQ level

See whether you can quickly find logical inconsistencies