Beyond the orbit of Neptune lies the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt. This disk of remote, icy bodies is perhaps the most pristine remnant of the primordial population of planetesimals from which the larger planets formed.

Because of its pristine nature, studying the properties of the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt illuminates the processes of planet formation.

For example, competing theories of planet formation predict vastly different numbers of small Kuiper Belt objects. Some theories suggest that bodies in the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt formed from large (10-100km diameters) primordial objects, while others predict they formed from much smaller (0.1-1km diameters) primordial objects. The former theories predict relatively few small (1km) Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt Objects, while the latter predict many.

Flicker will test both of these families of theories by accurately measuring, for the first time, the number of small Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt Objects.

 Visualization of the Edgeworth Kuiper Belt, beyond the orbits of the giant planets (cyan). The trajectory of NASA's mission to Pluto, New Horizons, is shown in yellow. Flicker will take a census of very small Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt objects to test theories of planet formation.

Visualization of the Edgeworth Kuiper Belt, beyond the orbits of the giant planets (cyan). The trajectory of NASA's mission to Pluto, New Horizons, is shown in yellow. Flicker will take a census of very small Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt objects to test theories of planet formation.