NASA Launching Farthest Space Exploration in History

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 - 12:32PM
Space
Wednesday, 13 December 2017 - 12:32PM
NASA Launching Farthest Space Exploration in History
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When NASA's New Horizons mission reaches its target on New Year's Day 2019, the flyby will officially be the most distant visit achieved in the history of space exploration.

But what's so interesting NASA decided to travel a billion miles beyond Pluto just to pass by it?

A mysterious object known as MU69 past Pluto may not be alone, and it's blowing researchers' minds. 

"[We] won't know what MU69 looks like until we fly past it, or even gain a full understanding of it until after the encounter," NASA astronomer and New Horizons team member Marc Buie explained.

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But even from afar, the more we examine it, the more interesting and amazing this little world becomes," 
 
The New Horizons mission, a spacecraft exploring the dwarf planet Pluto and the Kuiper Belt—the region in which Pluto is located, along with more planetoids, icy objects and comets beyond the orbit of Neptune—has already done its due diligence in giving science loads of details concerning Pluto, formerly known as the Ninth Planet.

Its next stop is a Kuiper Belt object identified as "(486958) 2014 MU69," and NASA is beginning to expect when New Horizons arrives, it will not only find the target, but a moon, or possibly two objects orbiting each other.

 
 
This potential finding was determined back in the summer, using six weeks of data gathered in June and July via attempts to put telescopes within MU69's slim shadow, cast as it passed in front of an even more distant star.

Judging by the orbital readings plus the object's shape and size, the researchers deduced that MU69 might not be a solo body, but instead a binary find.



"A binary with a smaller moon might also help explain the shifts we see in the position of MU69 during these various occultationsm," Buie continued.

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It's all very suggestive, but another step in our work to get a clear picture of MU69 before New Horizons flies by, just over a year from now."
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NASA Launching Farthest Space Exploration in History