Starts With A Bang

NASA’s New Horizons Views First Distant Kuiper Belt Object Beyond Pluto (Synopsis)

Illustration of the Kuiper Belt from the New Horizons mission site at Johns Hopkins. Image credit: © 2016 The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory LLC.

“It used to be that Pluto was a misfit. Now it turns out that Earth is the misfit. Most planets in the solar system look like Pluto, and not like the terrestrial planets.” -Alan Stern

The combination of New Horizons and Hubble to work together allow us to create the longest-baseline parallax images of all time. Through this combination, we’ve managed to learn more about a distant, long-range Kuiper belt object — in this case, (15810) 1994 JR1 — than ever before.

New Horizons image of 1994 JR1, taken Nov. 2, was the then-closest-ever picture of a Kuiper Belt object. Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.

This technique will enable us, if we so choose, to identify, characterize and learn the orbits, rotational periods and even topography and color of dozens of worlds beyond Neptune, if only we choose to extend New Horizons’ mission beyond the end of this year.

The lightcurve of JR1. Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI, acknowledgment to Simon Porter.

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