BEACON TRANSCRIPT – New Horizons, the spacecraft responsible with a flyby past Pluto, hit another milestone. It is getting really close to another target of its mission. It nearly reached the halfway point on its journey towards 2014 MU69, a Kuiper belt object.
If its journey goes as planned, New Horizons should reach 2014 MU69 on January 1st, 2019. The spacecraft reached the halfway point between Pluto and the its new target. Namely, it is situated 782.45 kilometers away from Pluto and it still has to fly almost the same distance until reaching 2014 MU69.
A new milestone for New Horizons
The one who made the news public was Alan Stern, the main scientist in the New Horizons project. He is a researcher at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder. After the spacecraft reaches MU69, it will attain the record of the most distant cosmic object in the Solar System ever explored.
New Horizons made so many achievements, so it deserves a short break. The spacecraft was the first to perform a complete flyby mission past Pluto. Then, over a period of 16 months, it was busy sending all the collected data to Earth. Afterwards, it spotted this series of Kuiper Belt Objects it is going to explore. Thus, New Horizons will enter a short hibernation period starting this week.
The data it recorded on the Kuiper Belt Objects is also a groundbreaking discovery. It studied the dust and the particles surrounding the objects, as well as the hydrogen present in the heliosphere. The heliosphere is the great area surrounding the Sun.
The spacecraft will not stop here
Scientists cannot wait until the spacecraft reaches MU69 in January 2019. They declared that this next flyby is a big event, but New Horizons will continue on its journey around the Kuiper Belt and will probably come with new amazing discoveries.
Hal Weaver, one of the project scientists of New Horizons, announced that they have big plans for the spacecraft. They plan to study more objects from the Kuiper Belt which are more distant, and analyze the environment all over the belt.
New Horizon is situated at a tremendous distance from Earth, namely 5.7 billion kilometers. Thus, a signal sent from Earth to the spacecraft takes around 5 hours and 20 minutes to reach it, with the signal traveling at light speed.
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