The Kuiper Belt

2 Mar, 2017 520 Astronomy

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Kuiper Belt, a vast region of icy objects at the fringes of our Solar System, beyond Neptune, in which we find the dwarf planet Pluto and countless objects left over from the origins of the solar system, some of which we observe as comets. It extends from where Neptune is, which is 30 times further out than the Earth is from the Sun, to about 500 times the Earth-Sun distance. It covers an immense region of space and it is the part of the Solar System that we know the least about, because it is so remote from us and has been barely detectable by Earth-based telescopes until recent decades. Its existence was predicted before it was known, and study of the Kuiper Belt, and how objects move within it, has led to a theory that there may be a 9th planet far beyond Neptune.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Carolin Crawford 20 episodes
    Institute of Astronomy and Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge
  • Monica Grady 9 episodes
    Open University
  • Stephen Lowry No other episodes
    University of Kent

Reading list

  • The Solar System Beyond Neptune
    M. A. Barucci, H. Boehnhardt, D. P. Cruikshank, A. Morbidelli, Renee Dotson (eds.) (University of Arizona Press, 2008) Google Books →
  • How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming
    Mike Brown (Spiegel & Grau, 2012) Google Books →
  • At the Edge of the Solar System: Icy New Worlds Unveiled
    Alain Doressoundiram and Emmanuel Lellouch (Springer Praxis Books, 2010) Google Books →
  • Exploring the Kuiper Belt and the Trans-Neptunian Region
    Joan Kloster (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015) Google Books →
  • Encyclopedia of the Solar System
    Lucy-Ann McFadden, Torrence V. Johnson, Paul R. Weissman (eds.) (Academic Press, 2006) Google Books →
  • The Hunt for Planet X: New Worlds and the Fate of Pluto
    Govert Schilling (Copernicus, 2009) Google Books →
  • Is Pluto a Planet?: A Historical Journey through the Solar System
    David A. Weintraub (Princeton University Press, 2006) Google Books →

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Auto-category: 523.4 (Planetary Science)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, about four and a half billion years ago, a vast cloud of dust and gas collapsed and gave rise to our solar system.