BEACON TRANSCRIPT – At the beginning of this year, NASA set a new target for the New Horizons spacecraft. This object was situated in the Kuiper belt, around a billion miles away from Pluto, and was called MU69. The flyby should take place in 2019, on the New Year’s Day but, before that, researchers took a look at it through the telescope. Although they don’t have a clear image of how the object actually looks like, they suspect it might have a moon orbiting around it.
Researchers studied MU69 with the help of a telescope
As soon as NASA identified the presence of MU69 in the Kuiper belt, they asked the public to help them find a more creative name for the space object. This way, it would be easier to make the flyby mission more popular. Since it’s quite a lot to wait until they could obtain some clear images of the object, researchers decided to use telescopes and take a peek at how it might look like.
The images produced by the telescopes aren’t the clearest, as the distance between our planet and MU69 is pretty big. However, they could still get a faint idea of how it probably looks like. This way, they established the space probe was either one single body in the shape of a peanut, or two objects orbiting each other.
The object might have a moon orbiting around it
This means MU69 might have a moon. It’s hard to tell for sure if that moon is really there, as things might be deceiving from such a distance. However, the object gets more interesting the more it is explored. The probe was picked up by the telescopes while moving in front of a faraway star. While doing it, they also noticed a mysterious shadow around it.
The shadow was present for quite a small period of time, so they insisted with the observation. This is how they also witnessed the phenomenon called occultation, when a cosmic body passes in front of another, blocking its view. This means that scientists might have not been watching only one object, but two. Soon after the flyby, they will find out if MU69 really has a moon.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons