In the late summer of 1992, I was in the long middle years of my graduate studies at Berkeley [...] midway through a Ph.D. dissertation about the planet Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io. [...] One afternoon, as on many times previous, after spending too much time staring at data on my computer screen and reading technical papers [...], I opened the door of my little graduate student office on the roof of the astronomy building, stepped into the enclosed rooftop courtyard, and climbed the metal stairs that went to the very top of the roof to an open balcony. As I stared at the San Francisco Bay laid out in front of me, trying to pull my head back down to the earth by watching the boats blowing across the water, Jane Luu, a friend and researcher in the astronomy department who had an office across the rooftop courtyard, clunked up the metal stairs and looked out across the water in the same direction I was staring. Softly and conspiratorially she said, “Nobody knows it yet, but we just found the Kuiper belt.”From Mike Brown's How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, page 5f.
I could tell that she knew she was onto something big, could sense her excitement, and I was flattered that here she was telling me this astounding information that no one else knew.
“Wow,” I said. “What’s the Kuiper belt?”
Congratulations to David Jewitt and Jane Luu for the award of the Shaw Prize in Astronomy 2012, and to, again, David Jewitt and Jane Luu, and Mike Brown, for the award of the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics 2012, for bringing the Kuiper belt from hypothesis to reality!
Our Solar System is much larger today than it was 20 years ago, and I would be glad if these prizes help to make this known to a much wider public.