New Horizons spacecraft moves towards its next flyby target Kuiper Belt

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is scheduled to fly past a Kuiper Belt Object as a part of an extended mission. The spacecraft will fly past the object KBO 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019. Latest data from Hubble Space Telescope suggests that the Kuiper Object is even redder than Pluto.

The New Horizons team used the Hubble telescope to study 11 objects of i32nterest in the Kuiper Belt. It is a region of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune. The study of Kuiper Belt with its dwarf planets and billions of rocks is important because it contains the primary material with which the solar system is composed of.

One of them is 2014 MU69 along which the New Horizons spacecraft will zip past. Though the body is not as red as Mars, still it is much redder than Pluto. This was stated by Amanda Zangari who is engaged in New Horizons post-doctoral research and is associated with the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado

Astronomers are not sure about the exact size of the Kuiper Body whose colour has been measured and it is believed to be somewhere in between 13 to 25 miles wide. It is one of the smallest of all the known Kuiper Belt Object. The New Horizons craft will zip past the object about 3000 km from the body surface. The Kuiper Body in all probability is from the cold classical region and contains primordial objects which appeared at the times of the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago and has not changed much since then.

The spacecraft which has been sent primarily to study the outer planets of the solar system including Pluto has beamed back a tranche of invaluable data and is still going strong. The spacecraft will fly to the Kuiper Belt and look closely at some of the oldest building blocks of the planet.