Kuiper Belt Objects…What Are They?

Kuiper Belt Objects are unique in that they have different compositions than most asteroids and different orbits than most comets. This has led astronomers to contemplate the identity of Kuiper Belt Objects. Surprisingly, the answer isn’t so clear. Asteroids are mostly composed of rock while comets are mostly composed of rock and ice. Most Kuiper Belt Objects are composed of half rock and half ice, so in this respect, they might be considered comets. Nevertheless, it is believed that some comets can actually turn into asteroids as they lose their ice from passing close to the Sun. It is also worth noting that comets that come close to the Sun have elliptical orbits while most Kuiper Belt Objects have circular orbits that don’t come close to the Sun at all. This is why many have concluded that Kuiper Belt Objects are simply an icy asteroid belt. However, then we enter the issue of whether the larger Kuiper Belt Objects should be classified as dwarf planets. Our knowledge of the universe has expanded rapidly in just a few decades, and we have realized that our universe and all the objects and worlds within it are more complex than we initially believed. Maybe it’s time to update our classification system or accept that many, if not most, objects in our universe fall somewhere in between the categories we have created.

kuiper-belt

Kuiper Belt

 

Links:

Kuiper Belt Objects

Comets, Meteors, and Asteroids

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Exploring Our Twin Planet

Venus is often called Earth’s twin, which seems like a very strange thing to say considering Earth is bountiful with life while Venus is uninhabitable to virtually all organisms we have on Earth. However, new research has led scientists to believe Venus’s surface is more dynamic than previously thought. The planets of terrestrial worlds such as the Moon and Mars are static, but this isn’t the case with Earth and Venus. Venus is a world covered in lava and ancient volcanoes. It is compared to Earth due to their similar sizes and thick atmospheres, and while Venus doesn’t feature plate tectonics that we have on Earth, we have found evidence of geological activity on Venus. Based on discoveries of lava filled blocks, scientists speculate that Venus’s crust could heat up enough for blocks of land to rotate and move around. Given the fact that it was thought that no geological activity had occurred on Venus for millions of years, this is an extraordinary theory. Similar to plate tectonics on Earth, large chunks of rock move around Venus’s surface. However, unlike on Venus, on Earth new crust is created and old crust sinks into the planet. It’s still to early to know what exactly is causing the geological activity on Venus, but I’m hopeful further study of Venus will make us increasingly certain that we truly do have a (fraternal) twin planet beside us!

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Venus Surface

 

Sources:

https://phys.org/news/2017-12-lava-filled-blocks-venus-geological.html

http://www.newsweek.com/venus-more-earth-we-thought-despite-nightmare-atmosphere-751433