Kuiper, Gerard Peter or Gerrit Pieter (gĕrˈĭt pēˈtər kĪˈpər) [key], 1905–73, American astronomer, b. the Netherlands. Kuiper is considered to be the father of modern planetary science for his wide ranging studies of the solar system. Among his discoveries were the atmosphere of Saturn's satellite Titan (1944), the carbon dioxide atmosphere on Mars (1948), Uranus's satellite Miranda (1948), and Neptune'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 comets—those making complete orbits around the sun in less than 200 years (see also Oort, Jan Hendrik). 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 astronomy, 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).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.