Sunday, June 20, 2010

First Team To Study A Kuiper Belt Object During A Stellar Occultation

Until now, astronomers have used telescopes to find Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs), moon-sized bodies, and obtain their spectra to determine what types of ices are on their surface. They have also used thermal-imaging techniques to get a rough idea of the size of KBOs, but other details have been difficult to glean.

While astronomers think there are about 70,000 KBOs that are larger than 100 kilometers in diameter, the objects' relatively small size and location make it hard to study them in detail.

One method that has been has been proposed for studying KBOs is to observe one as it passes briefly in front of a bright star; such events, known as stellar occultations, have yielded useful information about other planets in the solar system.

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