NASA Selects New Horizons' Next Flyby Target, After Pluto

Published On 08/31/2015 Published On 08/31/2015

If you thought we were done exploring the outer reaches of the solar system after NASA's New Horizons probe completed its historic Pluto flyby back in July, think again.

The New Horizons team just selected the next far out target designated for closer inspection -- one that will take us to the very edge of the Kuiper Belt, the massive band of planetary debris that encircles our solar system, beyond Pluto. 


This new destination, a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69, or PT1, orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto in space that is barely heated by the Sun, which should give researchers more insight on the outer solar system as a whole. PT1 was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope last year in an effort to find appropriate targets for study once the Pluto mission was completed. 

New Horizons will perform a series of four maneuvers in late October and early November to set its course to the KBO, which, barring unforeseen complications, it should reach on January 1. 2019.

Meanwhile, it's transmitting even more Pluto data back to scientists here on Earth from 3 billion miles away -- a probe's job never ends. 

Brett Williams is an editorial assistant at Supercompressor. 

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