NASA is sending the plucky New Horizons spacecraft towards a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. It will not attain its goal for about 17 months, however scientists are already gathering data on the far-flung KBO and it is trying mighty attention-grabbing.
Sizzling off its 2015 triumphs at Pluto, New Horizons headed in the hunt for additional adventures within the Kuiper Belt, an space crammed with icy area our bodies past Neptune’s orbit. MU69, which NASA estimates is underneath 30 miles (45 kilometers) throughout, is a type of our bodies.
MU69 handed in entrance of a star in mid-July and telescopes on Earth peered in its route in time to catch a have a look at its shadow. This occultation revealed the KBO may not be a typical sphere. It might truly be within the form of an American soccer, or it could possibly be two separate our bodies that orbit extraordinarily shut collectively. A 3rd choice is that it is perhaps a one-piece object with a piece lacking.
On Thursday, NASA launched two artist interpretations of what MU69 would possibly appear to be. One exhibits a binary object whereas the opposite exhibits an extended form that appears like a potato.
“I couldn’t be happier with the occultation outcomes, which promise a scientific bonanza for the flyby,” says New Horizons mission principal investigator Alan Stern.
The New Horizons staff expects the spacecraft to reach at its vacation spot for the flyby on Jan. 1, 2019. “That flyby would be the most distant within the historical past of area exploration, a billion miles past Pluto,” says NASA.
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