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NASA New Horizons Spacecraft Speeds Toward Mysterious Red Object in the Kuiper Belt

Oct 24, 2016 04:40 AM EDT

NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft is speeding towards the edge of the Solar System to observe a mysterious red object found residing within the Kuiper Belt and beyond the dwarf planet Pluto.

Ever since signs of potential clouds were spotted on the dwarf planet Pluto, all eyes turned to the Kuiper belt. A mysterious red object is now the target of New Horizons after the scientists' interest of the mysterious bright object increased.

The object, known as MU69 has a potentially red surface that gives it its bright appearance when being viewed from a far away distance.  The tiny Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) only measures 20 to 30 miles in diameter and is about 2.6 billion kilometers away from the dwarf planet Pluto. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is expected to rendezvous with the KBO on Jan. 1, 2019.

The mysterious red object is more or less 44 times farther from the Sun compared to Earth. The flyby in 2019 is highly anticipated as the spacecraft will fly closer to MU69 compared to when New Horizons flown passed Pluto last July 15, 2015.

The last Pluto flyby yielded a ton of scientific observation about the dwarf planet including new observations about its "icy heart" and other observations about the surface of Pluto. The mysterious object might be as red or even redder than Pluto says NASA. The recent updates about New Horizons' Kuiper Belt probe were given during the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) and European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena, Calif.

"We're excited about the exploration ahead for New Horizons, and also about what we are still discovering from Pluto flyby data," Alan Stern, principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado said in a statement. "Now, with our spacecraft transmitting the last of its data from last summer's flight through the Pluto system, we know that the next great exploration of Pluto will require another mission to be sent there," Stern added.

Although New Horizons is still a few years away from its target, it is already giving scientists a glimpse of the mysterious red object. Scientists expect that it may not have clouds but if it does, it will mean that the weather on Pluto is more intricate that initially thought.


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