The probe continues to make its way through the final frontiers of the solar system - and you may be surprised at what it found.
As we reported earlier, the New Horizons space probe recently discovered a strange object orbiting the farthest edges of the solar system, in a region called the Kuiper Belt. 1994 JR1, as the strange world is known, may be influenced by Pluto itself, said NASA scientists.
But as the probe continues to blast through the Kuiper Belt and beyond the boundaries of the solar system, what is it likely to find? Popular Science reports that the New Horizons team has big plans as the craft makes its way toward the very edge of the solar system.
Following 1994 JR1, researchers hope to image another barren, icy world known as 2014 MU69. Scientists still know very little about this object, but believe it orbits the sun at a distance of at least a billion miles past Pluto. Studying the strange Kuiper Belt Object, or KBO, could offer fresh insights into the conditions of the solar system in its earliest days.
According to New Horizons team member and post-doc researcher Simon Porter, “The Kuiper Belt in general, and the cold classical objects especially, are the most primordial objects. They were never pushed around by the giant planets; they’re pretty much where they formed and haven’t been disturbed except for occasionally bumping into each other.”
New Horizons continues to rewrite the book on space exploration with its stunning findings from the edges of the solar system. It may still take a few generations before mankind has the technical ability to visit a Kuiper Belt object, and the flybys provide the clearest look at these strange worlds yet.
New Horizons’ Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) recently imaged the strange icy world JR1 from 69 million miles away – a new record. The success of this project and more like it to come will offer an unprecedented look into some of the least explored regions of the solar system.
Scientists still don’t know much about JR1 or the other KBOs, but New Horizons is equipped with the tools to begin cracking the mystery.
A NASA press release describing the details of the recent study can be found here.