For the first time two spacecraft will soon make up-close studies of objects from the solar system’s Kuiper Belt, a mysterious region beyond Neptune’s orbit. There, billions of icy asteroids represent pristine examples of the raw building blocks of the solar system’s planets.
NASA’s New Horizons mission will visit the Kuiper Belt’s largest member, the dwarf planet Pluto, in 2015. The European Rosetta spacecraft, on the other hand, recently arrived in orbit around a comet that originated in the belt.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
Clara Moskowitz is Scientific American's senior editor covering space and physics. She has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University and a graduate degree in science journalism from the University of California, Santa Cruz.