Armagh Observatory, 1 March 1999

The announcement last Saturday, 27th February of the discovery of the trans-Neptunian object 1999 CZ118 by British astronomer David Jewitt and co-workers using the huge 3.6-metre diameter Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, brings the total number of these planetary building blocks or giant comets to 100.

The objects mostly move, like Pluto, in orbits of low eccentricities and inclination beyond Neptune, forming a 'belt' or disc just beyond the main planetary system. Ignoring Pluto - which many astronomers assume to be simply the largest so-called Edgeworth-Kuiper belt object (EKO) - the largest EKO so far known (1996 TO66) is more than 800 kilometres in diameter.

The existence of the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt was first proposed by the Irish astronomer Kenneth Edgeworth in 1943. Edgeworth was of the family which were cousins of the authoress Maria Edgeworth of Edgeworthstown in County Longford. The Dutch-American astronomer Gerard Kuiper independently proposed the existence of a trans-Neptunian belt of comets in 1951.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory. Tel.: 01861-522928 (work), 01762-879549 (home).

Last Revised: 15th June 1999
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