News Release Archive:

News Release 13 of 13

June 14, 1995 12:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-1995-26

Hubble Identifies a Long-Sought Population of Comets Beyond Neptune

June 14, 1995: The Hubble telescope has detected a long-sought population of comets dwelling at the icy fringe of the solar system. The observation, which is the astronomical equivalent to finding the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack, bolsters proof for a primordial comet reservoir just beyond Neptune. The circles pinpoint one of the candidate Kuiper belt objects. The dotted lines represent a possible orbit that this Kuiper belt comet is following.

Based on the Hubble observations, a team of astronomers estimate that the belt contains at least 200 million comets, which have remained essentially unchanged since the birth of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

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Credit: A. Cochran (University of Texas) and NASA