What is the average distance between objects in the Kuiper belt?

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In summary: However, collisions are a constant risk.In summary, the Kuiper belt is much less dense than the asteroid belt. Objects in the Kuiper belt are generally further away from each other than objects in the asteroid belt, and collisions with spacecraft are a constant risk.
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abdossamad2003
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What is the distance between the objects in the Kuiper belt? Is the density of objects high and the probability of a spacecraft colliding with objects in this area?
 
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I read that if you lived on an asteroid in the Asteroid Belt, you would never see another asteroid (contrary to movie depictions). I think Kuiper is much less dense.
 
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Keith_McClary said:
I read that if you lived on an asteroid in the Asteroid Belt, you would never see another asteroid (contrary to movie depictions). I think Kuiper is much less dense.
According to this image, the density of the Kuiper belt is much higher than that of the asteroid belt
My question is, what is the average distance of objects in the Kuiper belt?
kuiper-belt.png
 
  • #4
The above is a drawing. It is not an accurate representation, as it exaggerates the scales for illustrative purposes. On a to-scale picture one wouldn't see anything - no asteroids, no planets - just black space with a bright dot in the middle.

Here's how the densities of the two belts can be roughly compared, using commonly accessible data:

Let's assume the distribution to be doughnut-shaped, which it roughly is. Most asteroids lie between 2 and 3 AU, at inclinations lower than 15 degrees. We can approximate it as a torus at the distance of 2.5 AU, with 0.5 AU thickness (I.e. R and r, respectively).
The mass in the KB is mostly concentrated between 30 and 50 AU, at inclinations of less than 10 degrees. Let's assume a torus at R=40 AU with r=10 AU thickness.

Comparing the two volumes, we find out that the KB occupies roughly 6.7 thousand times more space than the AB.

At the same time, the mass contained within the AB is roughly 4% of the mass of the Moon, which is about 5 thousandth of the mass of the Earth. The mass in the KB is estimated as 2% of Earth mass. Which means the KB is about 4 times the mass of the AB.

I.e. there is four times the mass, within almost seven thousand times the volume. The density in the Kuiper Belt is then some 1.75 thousand times lower than that of the Asteroid Belt - and that was already low in absolute terms. To hit anything with a spacecraft one would need careful aiming, planned months or years ahead. Or colossaly bad luck.
 
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Bandersnatch said:
KB is about 4 times the mass of the AB.
Wikipedia says:
The Kuiper belt ... is similar to the asteroid belt, but is far larger – 20 times as wide and 20–200 times as massive.
 
  • #6
This is the KB mass estimate I used: https://arxiv.org/abs/1810.09771
The mass of the asteroid belt is well established.

Note 1, that even if we allowed for two orders of magnitude higher mass, it'd still mean the KB being significantly less dense than the AB.
Note 2, the Scattered Disc is not included in the aforementioned mass estimate. It's perfectly possible that there is many times more mass hiding out there, including a large planet. But, since the SD extends to ~1000AU, including it would only drive the average density down.
 
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abdossamad2003 said:
My question is, what is the average distance of objects in the Kuiper belt?
This is a very vague question. You would need to specify a size range. The composition of Kuiper objects is different from that of the asteroids and, also, the orbital speeds are very different )Asteroids 2 to 3 Au orbits and KB orbits are 20 to 50 Au. If you are after some ideas about relative conditions for a story then you need some in depth research if you want credibility.
What we can say is that you could spend several lifetimes out there without dinking against anything.
 

Related to What is the average distance between objects in the Kuiper belt?

What is the Kuiper Belt?

The Kuiper Belt is a region of the outer Solar System that extends beyond the orbit of Neptune. It is home to thousands of small icy bodies, including dwarf planets such as Pluto and Eris.

How was the Kuiper Belt discovered?

The Kuiper Belt was first predicted by astronomer Gerard Kuiper in the 1950s, but it wasn't until the 1990s that the first objects within the belt were observed by astronomers using telescopes. The discovery of Pluto in 1930 also provided evidence for the existence of the Kuiper Belt.

What is the difference between the Kuiper Belt and the Asteroid Belt?

The Kuiper Belt is located beyond the orbit of Neptune, while the Asteroid Belt is located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The objects in the Kuiper Belt are mainly made of ice, while those in the Asteroid Belt are mainly rocky.

What is the significance of the Kuiper Belt?

The Kuiper Belt is important for understanding the formation and evolution of the Solar System. The objects within the belt are relatively unchanged since the formation of the Solar System, providing valuable information about its early history.

Are there any missions or spacecrafts that have explored the Kuiper Belt?

Yes, in 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto and its moons, providing the first close-up images of objects within the Kuiper Belt. In 2019, New Horizons also flew by a small object within the Kuiper Belt known as Ultima Thule, providing even more insights into this region of the Solar System.

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