The Kuiper belt is the region of the solar system that exists beyond the last planet from the sun (Neptune). It is sometimes compared to the asteroid belt because they both mostly consist of small objects. However, the Kuiper belt is estimated to be up to 200 times larger than the asteroid belt. The Kuiper belt is also the location of at least 3 dwarf planets, including Pluto. If you want to know who discovered this important region of the solar system, keep reading to find out.
The existence of the Kuiper belt was theorized long before its discovery. Astronomers such as Frederick C. Leonard, Kenneth Edgeworth, Gerard Kuiper (after whom this region is named), Fred Whipple and physicist Al G.W. Cameron, all hypothesized about a region beyond Neptune. In 1977, astronomer Charles Kowal discovered a planetoid between Saturn and Uranus and in 1992 another similar object was found. These discoveries, along with the study of the finite lifespan of comets, led astronomers to theorize that these objects must come from an outer region.
Who discovered the Kuiper belt?
The discovery of the Kuiper belt can be traced back to 1987 when astronomer David Jewitt was surprised that the outer Solar System was so empty. He worked with graduate student Jane Luu to discover an object beyond the orbit of Pluto. After 5 years of searching they announced the discovery of the first object in the Kuiper belt. They nicknamed the object “Smiley,” but this was already used for the name of an asteroid. Today the object is known as (15760) 1992 QB1 and it remains unnamed. Six months later they discovered another object in the region.