As many of you know, Pluto is still quiterecently considered a full-fledged planet of the Solar System. However, the discovery at the beginning of the XXI century of several trans-Neptune objects dramatically shook the status of Pluto, turning it into just a dwarf planet. So what exactly is behind this distant ice world and is there something really interesting there?
What is a Kuiper belt?
Once upon a time when the solar systemjust finished its formation, around our star there was left to rotate the excess building material, which was never useful. This space debris dump gradually formed the asteroid belt known to many and the so-called Kuiper belt, which was named after the American astronomer who discovered the satellites of Uranus and Neptune. In fact, the Kuiper belt is an extended asteroid belt, which is 200 times more massive than the last. In addition, Kuiper belt objects consist mainly of water, ammonia and methane, while objects from the asteroid belt contain a high proportion of carbon compounds, and are also very rich in minerals.
In the area of the Kuiper belt there are several dwarf planets known to mankind, among which Pluto, already known to us, as well as Eris, Haumea and Makemake, stand out most clearly.
See also: The New Horizons probe has awakened and is ready to explore the Kuiper belt
Where is Eris located?
When in 2006 the XXVI Assembly of the Internationalof the astronomical union classified the term “planet” as an object that satisfies several key conditions at once, which was considered a full-fledged planet before this event. Pluto immediately lost its honorary title precisely because of the discovery of a new trans-Neptune object, which was called Eris. So, according to the postulates of the conference, an object can be considered a planet, which not only rotates around the Sun and has the shape of a ball, but also has a certain space around it, completely free from other bodies. Due to the fact that both Pluto and Eris are in the Kuiper belt and are not able to clear their surroundings from other trans-Neptunian objects, experts, without thinking twice about the name, simply named all the planetoids located inside the belt as dwarf planets.
Due to the fact that all trans-Neptune dwarfthe planets are at a gigantic distance from the Sun, it is very, very difficult to accurately determine the size of these small worlds. At the same time, it is believed that Eris is only slightly smaller than the notorious Pluto, whose diameter is approximately 2374 kilometers.
One of the strangest Kuiper belt objectswe can rightly consider the egg-shaped dwarf planet Haumea, which was discovered in 2004. Haumea is unique not only for its rather eccentric shape, but also for the presence of rings and just two satellites orbiting around a dwarf planet.
The other largest object of the Kuiper beltconsidered the dwarf planet Makemake, which has long been called the “Easter Bunny” due to the fact that this unusual object was discovered only a couple of days after the celebration of Easter. However, according to the rules of the International Astronomical Union, all the more or less large objects of the Kuiper belt must be named after one way or another connected with the creation of the world. So, the former “Easter Bunny” quickly turned into Makemak - the supreme god of mankind from the religion of the inhabitants of Easter Island.
What is an Oort cloud?
If you delve into the farthest from the Suncorners of our stellar system, then on its very edge we can see an unusual region, completely dotted with comets. Despite the fact that the existence of a hypothetical cloud has not yet been officially confirmed, a huge number of indirect facts indicate in one way or another its existence. It is believed that the Oort cloud is located at a distance of about 1 light year or ¼ part of the distance to the nearest star to the Sun - Proxima Centauri, and at its very boundary there may be a giant planet the size of Saturn, which some scientists have already christened as Tyuche - in honor of the goddess of fortune from ancient Greek mythology.
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Although the existence of Tyuche is stillit is not officially confirmed, as, in fact, the existence of the Oort Cloud itself, it is reliably known that most comets known to mankind really come from the depths of our solar system. Thus, the comet of Halley, known to many people, which repeatedly appeared in the historical chronicle of mankind, also occurred precisely in the Oort Cloud, having made a truly colossal path in order to become famous forever and become one of the comets most known to mankind. Well, it seems, she succeeded.