Kuiper, Gerard Peter

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Kuiper, Gerard Peter or Gerrit Pieter

(gĕr`ĭt pē`tər kī`pər), 1905–73, American astronomer, b. the Netherlands. Kuiper is considered to be the father of modern planetary scienceplanetary science
or planetology,
study of planets and planetary systems as a whole. Planetary science applies the theories and methods of traditional disciplines such as astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics to the study of the origin, composition,
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 for his wide ranging studies of the solar systemsolar system,
the sun and the surrounding planets, natural satellites, dwarf planets, asteroids, meteoroids, and comets that are bound by its gravity. The sun is by far the most massive part of the solar system, containing almost 99.9% of the system's total mass.
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. Among his discoveries were the atmosphere of SaturnSaturn,
in astronomy, 6th planet from the sun. Astronomical and Physical Characteristics of Saturn

Saturn's orbit lies between those of Jupiter and Uranus; its mean distance from the sun is c.886 million mi (1.
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's satellite TitanTitan
, in astronomy, the largest of the named moons, or natural satellites, of Saturn. Also known as Saturn VI (or S6), Titan is 3,200 mi (5,150 km) in diameter, orbits Saturn at a mean distance of 759,209 mi (1,221,830 km), and has equal orbital and rotational periods of 15.
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 (1944), the carbon dioxide atmosphere on Mars (1948), UranusUranus
, in astronomy, 7th planet from the sun, at a mean distance of 1.78 billion mi (2.87 billion km), with an orbit lying between those of Saturn and Neptune; its period of revolution is slightly more than 84 years.
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's satellite Miranda (1948), and NeptuneNeptune,
in astronomy, 8th planet from the sun at a mean distance of about 2.8 billion mi (4.5 billion km) with an orbit lying between those of Uranus and the dwarf planet Pluto; its period of revolution is about 165 years.
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's satellite Nereid (1949). He proposed (1951) the existence of a disk-shaped region of minor planets outside the orbit of Neptune (now called the Kuiper belt) as a source for short-period cometscomet
[Gr.,=longhaired], a small celestial body consisting mostly of dust and gases that moves in an elongated elliptical or nearly parabolic orbit around the sun or another star. Comets visible from the earth can be seen for periods ranging from a few days to several months.
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—those making complete orbits around the sun in less than 200 years (see also Oort, Jan HendrikOort, Jan Hendrik
, 1900–1992, Dutch astronomer. He confirmed (1927) Bertil Lindblad's theory of the Milky Way galaxy's rotation. In the 1950s he and his colleagues used radio astronomical means to map the spiral-arm structure of the galaxy.
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). During the 1960s Kuiper served as chief scientist for the Ranger lunar-probe program, choosing crash-landing sites on the moon; by analyzing Ranger photographs, he helped to identify sites for the Surveyor and Apollo programs. A pioneer in the development of infrared astronomyinfrared astronomy,
study of celestial objects by means of the infrared radiation they emit, in the wavelength range from about 1 micrometer to about 1 millimeter. All objects, from trees and buildings on the earth to distant galaxies, emit infrared (IR) radiation.
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, he was honored posthumously when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) named its airborne infrared telescope (1975–95) the Kuiper Airborne Observatory. Kuiper was the editor of two encyclopedic works, The Solar System (4 vol., 1953–58) and Stars and Stellar Systems (9 vol., 1960–68).
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Kuiper, Gerard Peter

(1905–73) astronomer; born in Harenkarspel, Holland. He arrived in California as a fellow at the Lick Observatory (1933–35), and attained citizenship in 1937. He directed the Yerkes and McDonald Observatories (1947–49, 1957–60) and finally the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona: Tucson. A principal investigator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Ranger program, he also researched planetary atmospheres.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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