Difference Between Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud (With Table)

There exist a lot of variations in the things that are present in the universe and the solar system, to be specific. These different things have different roles to play in the solar system. They are in various shapes and sizes and even colours. A person who knows the solar system not so deeply might claim that the solar system consists only of planets, but there are other celestial elements too that include the stars, the moon, the planets, the dwarf planets, asteroids, comets, meteoroids etc. Two of such other elements are 1. The Kuiper Belt and 2. The Oort Cloud.

Kuiper Belt vs Oort Cloud

The difference between the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud is their appearance or their shapes, to be precise. The Kuiper belt has a disc-like shaped appearance. On the other hand, the Oort cloud has a spherical shaped appearance. Other than their appearance, these two elements have other distinguishing characteristic features.

A disc-like shaped element that exists in the solar system around the vicinity of a star that has a resemblance to an asteroid belt is known as the Kuiper belt. The main elements that make the Kuiper belt are the frozen volatiles like methane, water and ammonia. The dwarf planets like Pluto, Haumea and Makemake reside in the Kuiper belt. Other than that, there is a probability that some of the moons like Triton and Phoebe reside in the Kuiper belt region.

The theoretical concept about the description of a cloud that existed in the developing stages of the solar system located surrounding the Sun at a certain distance range is known as the Oort cloud. The division of the Oort cloud is done into two areas, 1. The Hills cloud (The inner Oort cloud that is disc-shaped). 2. The outer Oort cloud having a spherical shaped appearance.

Comparison Table Between Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud

Parameters of Comparison Kuiper Belt Oort Cloud
MeaningA disc-like shaped element that exists in the solar system around the vicinity of a star resembling an asteroid belt is known as the Kuiper belt.The theoretical concept about the description of a cloud that existed in the developing stages of the solar system located surrounding the Sun at a certain distance range is known as the Oort cloud.
Named afterGerard Peter KuiperJan Hedrik Oort
ShapeDisc-shapedThe inner Oort cloud is disc-shaped and the outer Oort cloud is
spherical-shaped.
LocationBeyond the orbit of Neptune.In the surrounding of the Sun.
ObjectsNot distributed by the stars and the sun.Distributed by the stars and the sun.

What is Kuiper Belt?

A disc-like shaped element that exists in the solar system around the vicinity of a star that has a resemblance to an asteroid belt is known as the Kuiper belt. It is made up of methane, ammonia and water. Many dwarf planets like Pluto, Haumea and Makemake reside in the Kuiper belt.

The Kuiper belt has a resemblance to an asteroid belt. Although the Kuiper belt is much larger than an asteroid belt. The term “Kuiper belt” was derived from the name of a Dutch astronomer, Gerard Peter Kuiper. Many objects were found existing in the Kuiper belt ever since its establishment.

A minor planet called Albion was discovered existing in the Kuiper belt in the year 1992. Initially, the Kuiper belt was considered the storage of short term comets. The comets that have an orbital period of fewer than 200 years are considered short term comets. Many discoveries were made about the Kuiper belt ever since its establishment.

For the exploration of the Kuiper belt, a spacecraft named “New Horizons” was dispatched on 19 January 2006. The main motto of sending the spacecraft was to find out and track down other objects that exist in the Kuiper belt. The Kuiper belt holds significance as it is an important study material for the study of the planetary system.

What is Oort Cloud?

The theoretical concept about the description of a cloud that existed in the developing stages of the solar system located surrounding the Sun at a certain distance range is known as the Oort cloud. It is divided into two areas, namely the inner Oort cloud and the outer Oort cloud.

The inner Oort cloud is also known as Hills cloud, has a disc-shaped appearance. On the other hand, the outer Oort cloud has a spherical-shaped appearance. The term “Oort cloud” was derived after the name of a Dutch astronomer Jan Hendrik Oort. The Oort cloud is located in the surrounding area of the Sun at a certain distance range.

Many long term comets reside in the Oort cloud. The comets that have an orbital period of greater than 200 years are known as long term comets. Other than the long term planets, many Halley-type comets and Jupiter-family comets reside in the Oort cloud. The comet Hale-Bopp is said to have originated from the Oort cloud, which is a long term comet.

The Oort cloud is a significant element of the solar system. The Oort cloud not only contains comets but also contains asteroids. It is also considered the defining element of the solar system’s boundary. Some comets from the Oort cloud can disappear as well. There are several interesting facts about the Oort cloud making it one of the most interesting elements of the solar system.

Main Differences Between Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud

  1. The Kuiper belt has a disc-shaped appearance. On the other hand, the Oort cloud has both disc-shaped and spherical-shaped appearance as the inner Oort cloud or Hills cloud is disc-shaped and the outer Oort cloud is spherical-shaped.
  2. The Kuiper belt is located beyond the orbit of Neptune. On the other hand, the Oort cloud is located in the surrounding area of the Sun at a certain distance range.
  3. The Kuiper belt is a source of short-term comets. On the other hand, the Oort cloud is a source of long-term comets.
  4. The term “Kuiper belt” is derived from the name of a Dutch astronomer Gerard Peter Kuiper. On the other hand, the term “Oort cloud” is derived from the name of a Dutch astronomer Jan Hendrik Oort.
  5. The objects from the Oort cloud are distributed by either the stars or the Sun. On the other hand, the objects from the Kuiper belt are not distributed by the stars and the Sun.

Conclusion

Both the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud hold significance and play an important role in the solar system as well. Both of them have their characteristic independent features.

Both the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud are important for the study of the planetary system. They are a source of long-term and short-term comets. They both are important study material to study about the planets and other things about them.

References

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/344825a0
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019103502000568
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