Gerard Kuiper

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Gerard Kuiper
Gerard Kuiper 1964b.jpg
Gerard Kuiper in 1964
Born
Gerrit Pieter Kuiper

(1905-12-07)December 7, 1905
Tuitjenhorn, Netherlands
DiedDecember 23, 1973(1973-12-23) (aged 68)
Mexico City, Mexico
NationalityDutch–American
Alma mater Leiden University
(Master of Science, Master of Physics, Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Science)
Occupation Astronomer
Planetary scientist
Selenographer
Author
Professor
Years active1933–1973
Known for Kuiper belt
Spouse(s)Sarah Fuller (1936–1973; his death)

Gerard Peter Kuiper (English: /ˈkpər/ ; Dutch pronunciation: [ˈkœypər] ; born Gerrit Pieter Kuiper; December 7, 1905 – December 23, 1973) was a Dutch–American astronomer, planetary scientist, selenographer, author and professor. He is the eponymous namesake of the Kuiper belt. Kuiper is considered by many to be the father of modern planetary science. [1] As professor at the University of Chicago, he was dissertation advisor to Carl Sagan. In 1958, the two worked on the classified military Project A119, the secret Air Force plan to detonate a nuclear warhead on the Moon.

Eponym Someone or something after which something is named

An eponym is a person, place, or thing after whom or after which something is named, or believed to be named. The adjectives derived from eponym include eponymous and eponymic. For example, Elizabeth I of England is the eponym of the Elizabethan era, and "the eponymous founder of the Ford Motor Company" refers to Henry Ford. Recent usage, especially in the recorded-music industry, also allows eponymous to mean "named after its central character or creator".

Kuiper belt area of the Solar System beyond the planets comprising small bodies

The Kuiper belt, occasionally called the Edgeworth–Kuiper belt, is a circumstellar disc in the outer Solar System, extending from the orbit of Neptune to approximately 50 AU from the Sun. It is similar to the asteroid belt, but is far larger—20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive. Like the asteroid belt, it consists mainly of small bodies or remnants from when the Solar System formed. While many asteroids are composed primarily of rock and metal, most Kuiper belt objects are composed largely of frozen volatiles, such as methane, ammonia and water. The Kuiper belt is home to three officially recognized dwarf planets: Pluto, Haumea and Makemake. Some of the Solar System's moons, such as Neptune's Triton and Saturn's Phoebe, may have originated in the region.

Planetary science science of astronomical objects apparently in orbit around one or more stellar objects within a few light years

Planetary science or, more rarely, planetology, is the scientific study of planets, moons, and planetary systems and the processes that form them. It studies objects ranging in size from micrometeoroids to gas giants, aiming to determine their composition, dynamics, formation, interrelations and history. It is a strongly interdisciplinary field, originally growing from astronomy and earth science, but which now incorporates many disciplines, including planetary geology, cosmochemistry, atmospheric science, oceanography, hydrology, theoretical planetary science, glaciology, and exoplanetology. Allied disciplines include space physics, when concerned with the effects of the Sun on the bodies of the Solar System, and astrobiology.

Contents

Early life

Kuiper, the son of a tailor in the village of Harenkarspel in North Holland, had an early interest in astronomy. He had extraordinarily sharp eyesight, allowing him to see magnitude 7.5 stars with the naked eye, about four times fainter than visible to normal eyes. He went to study at Leiden University in 1924, where at the time a very large number of astronomers had congregated. He befriended fellow students Bart Bok and Pieter Oosterhoff and was taught by Ejnar Hertzsprung, Antonie Pannekoek, Willem de Sitter, Jan Woltjer, Jan Oort and the physicist Paul Ehrenfest. He received his B.Sc. [ dubious ] in Astronomy in 1927 and continued straight on with his graduate studies. Kuiper finished his doctoral thesis on binary stars with Hertzsprung in 1933, after which he traveled to California to become a fellow under Robert Grant Aitken at the Lick Observatory. In 1935 he left to work at the Harvard College Observatory where he met Sarah Parker Fuller, whom he married on June 20, 1936. Although he had planned to move to Java to work at the Bosscha Observatory, he took a position at the Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago and became an American citizen in 1937. In 1949, Kuiper initiated the Yerkes–McDonald asteroid survey (1950–1952).

Harenkarspel Former municipality in North Holland, Netherlands

Harenkarspel is a former municipality in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland and the region of West-Frisia. The main town of Harenkarspel was Tuitjenhorn. In 2013, Harenkarspel merged with Schagen and Zijpe into a new municipality, which is called Schagen.

North Holland Province of the Netherlands

North Holland is a province of the Netherlands located in the northwestern part of the country. It is situated on the North Sea, north of South Holland and Utrecht, and west of Friesland and Flevoland. In 2015, it had a population of 2,762,163 and a total area of 2,670 km2 (1,030 sq mi).

Apparent magnitude measure of brightness for celestial objects, as seen from Earth

The apparent magnitude of an astronomical object is a number that is a measure of its brightness as seen by an observer on Earth. The magnitude scale is logarithmic. A difference of 1 in magnitude corresponds to a change in brightness by a factor of 5100, or about 2.512. The brighter an object appears, the lower its magnitude value, with the brightest astronomical objects having negative apparent magnitudes: for example Sirius at −1.46.

Discoveries

Kuiper discovered two natural satellites of planets in the Solar System, namely Uranus's satellite Miranda and Neptune's satellite Nereid. In addition, he discovered carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of Mars and the existence of a methane-laced atmosphere above Saturn's satellite Titan in 1944. Kuiper also pioneered airborne infrared observing using a Convair 990 aircraft in the 1960s.

Natural satellite astronomical body that orbits a planet

A natural satellite or moon is, in the most common usage, an astronomical body that orbits a planet or minor planet.

Solar System planetary system of the Sun

The Solar System is the gravitationally bound planetary system of the Sun and the objects that orbit it, either directly or indirectly. Of the objects that orbit the Sun directly, the largest are the eight planets, with the remainder being smaller objects, such as the five dwarf planets and small Solar System bodies. Of the objects that orbit the Sun indirectly—the moons—two are larger than the smallest planet, Mercury.

Uranus Seventh planet from the Sun in the Solar System

Uranus is the seventh planet from the Sun. It has the third-largest planetary radius and fourth-largest planetary mass in the Solar System. Uranus is similar in composition to Neptune, and both have bulk chemical compositions which differ from that of the larger gas giants Jupiter and Saturn. For this reason, scientists often classify Uranus and Neptune as "ice giants" to distinguish them from the gas giants. Uranus' atmosphere is similar to Jupiter's and Saturn's in its primary composition of hydrogen and helium, but it contains more "ices" such as water, ammonia, and methane, along with traces of other hydrocarbons. It is the coldest planetary atmosphere in the Solar System, with a minimum temperature of 49 K, and has a complex, layered cloud structure with water thought to make up the lowest clouds and methane the uppermost layer of clouds. The interior of Uranus is mainly composed of ices and rock.

Kuiper spent most of his career at the University of Chicago, but moved to Tucson, Arizona, in 1960 to found the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. Kuiper was the laboratory's director until his death in 1973: while on vacation with his wife in Mexico he had a heart attack. One of the three buildings at Arizona that makes up the LPL is named in his honor.

University of Chicago Private research university in Chicago, Illinois, United States

The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1890, the school is located on a 217-acre campus in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, near Lake Michigan. The University of Chicago holds top-ten positions in various national and international rankings.

Arizona state of the United States of America

Arizona is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the sixth largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico; its other neighboring states are Nevada and California to the west and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California to the south and southwest.

Lunar and Planetary Laboratory lab at University of Arizona

The Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) is a research center for planetary science located in Tucson, Arizona. It is also a graduate school, constituting the Department of Planetary Sciences at the University of Arizona. LPL is one of the world's largest programs dedicated exclusively to planetary science in a university setting.

In the 1950s Kuiper's interdisciplinary collaboration with the geochemist and Nobel Laureate Harold C. Urey to understand the Moon's thermal evolution descended into acrimony, as the two engaged in what became known as the “Hot Moon Cold Moon” controversy. Their falling out, in part a scientific dispute, also reflected the challenge of maintaining professional relationships across overlapping but distinct scientific disciplines. [2]

In the 1960s, Kuiper helped identify landing sites on the Moon for the Apollo program. His earlier work on the Moon included the secret Project A119, the secret Air Force plan to detonate a nuclear warhead on the Moon. [3] Another scientist in the group was Carl Sagan, who was Kuiper's PhD student at the time of the project. [3]

Moon landing Arrival of a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon

A Moon landing is the arrival of a spacecraft on the surface of the Moon. This includes both crewed and uncrewed (robotic) missions. The first human-made object to reach the surface of the Moon was the Soviet Union's Luna 2 mission, on 13 September 1959.

Apollo program Crewed U.S. lunar missions from 1966–1972

The Apollo program, also known as Project Apollo, was the third United States human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which succeeded in landing the first humans on the Moon from 1969 to 1972. First conceived during Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration as a three-man spacecraft to follow the one-man Project Mercury which put the first Americans in space, Apollo was later dedicated to President John F. Kennedy's national goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the 1960s, which he proposed in an address to Congress on May 25, 1961. It was the third US human spaceflight program to fly, preceded by the two-man Project Gemini conceived in 1961 to extend spaceflight capability in support of Apollo.

Project A119 secret plan developed in 1958 by the United States Air Force aiming to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon

Project A119, also known as A Study of Lunar Research Flights, was a top-secret plan developed in 1958 by the United States Air Force. The aim of the project was to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon, which would help in answering some of the mysteries in planetary astronomy and astrogeology. If the explosive device detonated on the surface, not in a lunar crater, the flash of explosive light would have been faintly visible to people on Earth with their naked eye, a show of force resulting in a possible boosting of domestic morale in the capabilities of the United States, a boost that was needed after the Soviet Union took an early lead in the Space Race and was also working on a similar project.

Kuiper discovered several binary stars which received "Kuiper numbers" to identify them, such as KUI 79.

Honors

Besides the minor planet 1776 Kuiper, three craters (Mercurian, lunar and Martian), Kuiper Scarp in Antarctica, and the now-decommissioned Kuiper Airborne Observatory was also named after him.

Astronomers refer to a region of minor planets beyond Neptune as the "Kuiper belt", since Kuiper had suggested that such small planets or comets may have formed there. However he believed that such objects would have been swept clear by planetary gravitational perturbations so that none or few would exist there today.

The Kuiper Prize, named in his honor, is the most distinguished award given by the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences, an international society of professional planetary scientists. The prize recognizes outstanding contributors to planetary science, and is awarded annually to scientists whose lifetime achievements have most advanced our understanding of planetary systems. Winners of this award include Carl Sagan, James Van Allen, and Eugene Shoemaker.

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References

  1. "NASA Solar System Exploration" . Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  2. Doel, Ronald E. (1996). Solar System Astronomy in America: Communities, Patronage, and Interdisciplinary Science, 1920-1960. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN   9780521115681.
  3. 1 2 Ulivi, Paolo (2004). Lunar Exploration: Human Pioneers and Robotic Surveyors. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 20. ISBN   978-1-85233-746-9.