New Horizons captures first image of a Kuiper Belt object beyond Pluto
New Horizons observed Object 1994 JR1, a 90-mile-wide world, in April from a distance of 69 million miles away — the closest look yet at the Kuiper Belt object.
The spacecraft is currently traveling through the Kuiper Belt, a disk-shaped region that consists mainly of small remnants from the Solar System’s formation.
Simon Porter, a New Horizons science team member from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, said the observations contain several valuable findings.
“Combining the November 2015 and April 2016 observations allows us to pinpoint the location of JR1 to within 1,000 kilometers (about 600 miles), far better than any small KBO,” he said, adding that the more accurate orbit also allows the science team to dispel a theory, suggested several years ago, that JR1 is a quasi-satellite of Pluto.
New Horizons has a possible 20 KBOs to take a closer look at over the next few years if NASA approves a mission extension, including an incredibly close flyby of object 2014 MU69, potentially slated for Jan. 1, 2019.
Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator and his team submitted a Kuiper Belt extended mission proposal to NASA in April. They have not received approval from NASA, yet.