New Mysteries Surround New Horizons’ Next Flyby Target

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NASA’s New Horizons booster doesn’t wizz past a subsequent scholarship aim until New Year’s Day 2019, yet a Kuiper Belt object, famous as 2014 MU69, is already divulgence surprises.

Four members of a New Horizons’ South African regard group indicate a sky while watchful for a start of a 2014 MU69 occultation, early on a morning of Jun 3, 2017. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Henry Throop

Scientists have been sifting by information collected from watching a object’s discerning pass in front of a star – an astronomical eventuality famous as an occultation – on Jun 3. More than 50 goal group members and collaborators set adult telescopes opposite South Africa and Argentina, along a approaching lane of a slight shade of MU69 that a occultation would emanate on Earth’s surface, aiming to locate a two-second glance of a object’s shade as it raced opposite a Earth. Accomplishing a observations of that occultation was done probable with a assistance of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and Gaia, a space look-out of a European Space Agency (ESA).

Combined, a pre-positioned mobile telescopes prisoner some-more than 100,000 images of a occultation star that can be used to consider a sourroundings around this Kuiper Belt intent (KBO). While MU69 itself eluded direct detection, the Jun 3 data supposing profitable and astonishing insights that have already helped New Horizons.

“These information uncover that MU69 competence not be as dim or as vast as some expected,” pronounced occultation group personality Marc Buie, a New Horizons scholarship group member from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.

Initial estimates of MU69’s diameter, shaped essentially on information taken by a Hubble Space Telescope given a KBO’s find in 2014, tumble in a 12-25-mile (20-40-kilometer) operation – yet information from this summer’s ground-based occultation observations competence indicate it’s during or even next a smallest sizes approaching before a Jun 3 occultation.

Besides MU69’s size, a readings offer sum on other aspects of a Kuiper Belt object.

“These formula are revelation us something unequivocally interesting,” pronounced New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of SwRI. “The fact that we achieved a occultation observations from each designed watching site yet didn’t detect a intent itself approaching means that possibly MU69 is rarely contemplative and smaller than some expected, or it competence be a binary or even a overflow of smaller bodies left from a time when a planets in a solar complement formed.”

More information are on a way, with additional occultations of MU69 occurring on Jul 10 and Jul 17. On Jul 10, NASA’s airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) will use a absolute 100-inch (2.5-meter) telescope to examine a space around MU69 for waste that competence benefaction a jeopardy to New Horizons as it flies by in 18 months.

On Jul 17, a Hubble Space Telescope also will check for waste around MU69, while group members set adult another groundbased “fence line” of tiny mobile telescopes along a approaching belligerent lane of a occultation shade in southern Argentina to try to improved constrain, or even determine, a distance of MU69.

Check out a star brightness, approaching shade trail and other tech specs for the July 10 and July 17 occultation events.

Source: NASA

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