CQX306 The Kuiper belt: a window into the outer solar system’s historyThe Kuiper belt is a population of small bodies of ice and rock in the outer Solar System. Unlike the big planets, they orbit in crisscrossing paths and elongated loops, often tilted compared to other worlds. In fact, their complex orbital distribution has yielded many clues to the history of the Solar System’s giant planets.
Over the last 20 years, more than 2000 objects in the Kuiper belt have been discovered. These small bodies are the leftovers of the planet formation process, and their orbits have been sculpted by the planets. That not only includes the gravity of the planets where they orbit today, but also carries traces of where the planets formed before they migrated to their current positions.
In this course you’ll learn how hypothetical ideas about this outer Solar System population evolved into our complex, observationally constrained current picture. We will discuss how Kuiper belt observations have helped steer theoretical models of planet migration in our current solar system as well as models of how objects in the early solar system formed. We will also talk about what puzzles still remain and how future surveys (such as the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, or LSST) will help resolve them.
This class counts as 300 points towards Certificate A (Astronomy From the Ground Up) and Certificate B (Planets and Planetary Science). Click here for more information on CosmoAcademy Certificates. See our Frequently-Asked Questions page for answers to questions we get a lot.
Instructor: Kat Volk
Class status: OPEN FOR ENROLLMENT!
Meeting times: Thursdays, 9-10 PM US Eastern time (6-7 PM US Pacific time)
- Thursday, Mar. 2, 2017
- Thursday, Mar. 9, 2017
- Thursday, Mar. 16, 2017
- Thursday, Mar. 23, 2017