New Horizons has sent back stunning images and data of Pluto -- and now it has its sights set on something a billion miles away in the Kuiper Belt.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has made headlines around the world thanks to its amazing close-up shots of the former planet Pluto in recent months, and now that it has completed its flyby, it is setting its sights on a mysterious objects in the outer solar system: 2014 MU69.
The object 2014 MU69 is a ball of ice in the Kuiper Belt in the outer solar system, about a billion miles from Pluto where New Horizons just snapped a bunch of photos and collected data that it is currently sending back to Earth, according to a New York Times report.
Pluto is situated about 3 billion miles from the sun, so to travel another billion miles, it will take New Horizons until about 2019 to finally reach 2014 MU69.
Scientists settled on 2014 MU69 after looking for new targets that New Horizons could chase with the Hubble Space Telescope. They found a couple of candidates, but settled on 2014 MU69 because it was much more reachable even though it was smaller than another candidate.
This new object isn’t likely to be as amazing and interesting as the incredibly varied surface of Pluto, and certainly the object is not nearly as famous as the planet that was formerly the ninth from the sun until it was downgraded to a protoplanet or dwarf planet a few years ago. But it will provide scientists with a close-up look at an intermediate object in the Kuiper Belt that could give the scientific community a better understanding of the belt itself, which was left over from the creation of the solar system and could help them understand better how planets are formed.