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Chapter 23 Section 4
Minor Members of Our
Solar System
Kuiper Belt
Oort Cloud
• Small rocky bodies; irregular
• Lie between orbits of Mars &
Jupiter (asteroid belt)
• Orbital period of 3-6 years
– Some asteroids have very
eccentric orbits & travel close
to the Sun.
– Others (larger) regularly pass
close to Earth & Moon
• Largest asteroid: Ceres—
1,000 km diameter
Why track asteroid paths?
NASA Capture Pet Asteroid?
PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids)
Location of Asteroids
• Rocky, metallic
material held together
by frozen gases (water,
ammonia, methane, CO2, and CO)
• Elongated orbits (far beyond Pluto) Space Debris Song
– Orbital period of most  hundreds of thousands of years
– Some less than 200 years and encounter inner solar system
• Anatomy of a comet:
– Coma-glowing head produced as frozen gases
– Nucleus-located in the coma; icy
– Tail-typically forms as approach Sun (can extend
millions of km); always points AWAY from Sun in
curved manner
• Radiation pressure—forms dust tail
• Solar wind– forms ionized (gas) tail (mainly CO)
Halley’s Comet
-Periodic comet
-Passes Earth every 76 years
-Last pass: 1986
-Next pass: 2061
Comet Ison
-Originated from Oort Cloud
-Most agree it did not survive
orbit around Sun
Kuiper Belt & Oort Cloud
Kuiper Belt
Birthplace of short orbital period
comets; nearly circular orbits
roughly in same plane of planets
Located beyond Neptune
Most comets we see are Kuiper
Belt comets
Closer Look at the Kuiper Belt
Oort Cloud
Birthplace of long orbital
period comets; highly
eccentric orbits; not
confined to plane of solar
“3-D shell” around solar
Very rarely do we observe
an Oort Cloud comet
• Meteoroid: small solid particle in space; made of iron
– Originate from: interplanetary debris, asteroid belt, or
remains of a comet
• Meteor: meteoroids that enter Earth’s
atmosphere; burn once in atmos.
– Where does light originate?
– Meteor showers  Earth encounters swarm of meteoroids
traveling same speed/direction  link to comets…WHY?
• Meteorite: reaches Earth’s surface
– Meteor Crater Winslow, Arizona
~50,000 years ago
Originated from asteroid belt
~26,000 mph prior to impact; 150 ft across
Crater is roughly
– 1 mile wide
– 2.4 mile circumference
– 550 feet deep