SOFIA to Make Advance Observations of Next New Horizons Flyby Object

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On Jul 10, researchers regulating NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, will try to investigate a sourroundings around a apart Kuiper Belt Object, 2014 MU69, that is a subsequent flyby aim for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.

When New Horizons flies by it, MU69 will be a many apart intent ever explored by a spacecraft, over a billion miles over from a intent than Pluto. This ancient Kuiper Belt intent is not good accepted since it is faint, tiny (likely 12-25-mile (20-40-kilometer across, or presumably even smaller according to new ground-based observations), and really apart divided (approximately 4.1 billion miles from Earth).

To investigate this apart intent from Earth, a New Horizons group have used information from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and a European Space Agency’ Gaia satellite to calculate where MU69 would expel a shade on Earth’s aspect as it passes in front of a star, an eventuality famous as an occultation. Based on this calculation — that dynamic a shade would pass over open H2O in a Pacific — a SOFIA group will try to position a aircraft in a core of a shadow, indicating SOFIA’s telescope during MU69 when it passes in front of a credentials star. The New Horizons group will afterwards investigate a information performed with SOFIA to see how a light from a star changes as MU69 passes in front of it.

These observations will concede researchers to improved know a dangerous sourroundings combined by rings or other waste that competence circuit MU69. This allege regard is a vicious step in flyby formulation before a New Horizons booster arrives during MU69 on Jan 1, 2019.

The SOFIA observations on Jul 10 are another approach SOFIA has been means to support a New Horizons mission, as it did in Jun 2015, before New Horizons finished a ancestral flyby of Pluto.

“Back then, SOFIA was means to be in a core of Pluto’s shade during a occultation eventuality on Jun 29, 2015, providing a profitable windy dataset in support of New Horizons,” pronounced Kimberly Ennico Smith, SOFIA plan scientist. “This year we’re stability that collaboration, as SOFIA can yield information that will be vicious to a New Horizons team’s skeleton for a MU69 flyby in 2019.”

There are differences that make SOFIA’s observations for a MU69 flyby some-more formidable than those finished in support of a Pluto flyby. Because of a tiny stretch and vast stretch from Earth, a shade expel by MU69 is about 100 times smaller than that of Pluto. This tiny size, relations to a positional correctness of a aircraft, creates a designed regard really severe for SOFIA. The tiny stretch of a shade and a doubt in a position means that SOFIA competence not attain in drifting by a shadow. Still, SOFIA competence be means to yield critical information given a plane’s vantage indicate from above a clouds, that removes bad continue as an regard obstacle, and given that a shade falls in a center of a Pacific Ocean, where it is untouched to smaller, ground-based telescopes.

Source: NASA

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