NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, that recently send us magnificent detailed images from Pluto, now approaching a reddish peculiar object.
Hubble Space Telescope data suggests that 2014 MU69, a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) about a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, is as red, if not redder, than Pluto.
This is the first hint at the surface properties of the far flung object that New Horizons will survey on Jan. 1, 2019.
Above, artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Kuiper Belt object, as part of an extended mission after the spacecraft’s July 2015 Pluto flyby. New Horizons is set to fly past 2014 MU69 – a KBO currently about a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto – on Jan. 1, 2019. Recent data from the Hubble Space Telescope suggests 2014 MU69 has a reddish hue, even redder than Pluto. The object is the smallest KBO to have its surface properties measured. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Mission scientists are discussing this and other Pluto and Kuiper Belt findings this week at the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) and European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena, California.
“We’re excited about the exploration ahead for New Horizons, and also about what we are still discovering from Pluto flyby data,” said Alan Stern, principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “Now, with our spacecraft transmitting the last of its data from last summer’s flight through the Pluto system, we know that the next great exploration of Pluto will require another mission to be sent there.”