Craters on Pluto suggest Kuiper Belt ate its smaller bodies

Image of craters on a moon.

Enlarge / A view of Vulcan
Planitia’s craters on Charon. (credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins
University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research
Institute/K. Singer)

What did the earliest bodies in our Solar System look like, and
what was their fate? It’s difficult to tell, because it’s not clear
that there are any of them left. Lots of the earliest material was
swept up into the planets. Many of the smaller bodies that remained
are products of multiple collisions and have perhaps formed and
re-formed multiple times—some are little more than rubble piles
barely held together by gravity.

Without some knowledge of what these bodies looked like, then,
it’s difficult to determine whether our models of the physics of
the early Solar System are right and whether similar processes are
likely to be in play in exosolar systems.

Now, some researchers have found a way to infer the sizes of
objects present in the early Solar System: looking at the craters
they left behind when they smashed into Pluto and Charon. The
results suggest a shortage of objects smaller than 2km in diameter
and suggest that much of the material in the Kuiper Belt was
quickly swept up into larger objects, which somehow avoided
smashing into each other and liberating a new generation of smaller
fragments.

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Craters on Pluto suggest Kuiper Belt ate its smaller bodies