New Horizons conducts final course correction for New Year’s Day flyby of next KBO in 2019

New Horizons has completed the four course corrections needed to send it on its way to its next target in the Kuiper Belt, 2014 MU69. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
New Horizons has completed the four course corrections needed to send it on its way to its next target in the Kuiper Belt, 2014 MU69. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

After having completed a wildly successful flyby of Pluto and its moons, the New Horizons spacecraft was given a new target, much farther out in the Kuiper Belt, a smaller space rock called 2014 MU69. Starting on Oct. 22, New Horizons was instructed to perform the first of four targeting maneuvers, which would be needed to guide the spacecraft toward its destination. Now, the fourth maneuver has been successfully completed, putting New Horizons firmly on the path for a January 2019 rendezvous with 2014 MU69.

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New Horizons changes course for flyby of first post-Pluto destination on New Year’s Day 2019

New Horizons has sped past the Pluto system and is now on its way to its next target in the Kuiper Belt, 2014 MU69. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
New Horizons has sped past the Pluto system and is now on its way to its next target in the Kuiper Belt, 2014 MU69. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

After having completed its successful encounter with Pluto and its moons last July, the New Horizons spacecraft is now setting its sights on its next target much farther out in the Kuiper Belt: a tiny rocky world called 2014 MU69, which is less than 30 miles in diameter and orbits nearly 1 billion miles past Pluto, in the far outer reaches of the Solar System.

Read MoreNew Horizons changes course for flyby of first post-Pluto destination on New Year’s Day 2019

A whole new world: Pluto discoveries published in new ‘Science’ research paper

High-resolution view of Pluto from New Horizons. The large smoother area of ice is the western lobe of the “heart” feature. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
High-resolution view of Pluto from New Horizons. The large smoother area of ice is the western lobe of the “heart” feature. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

It has been three months since the historic close flyby of Pluto by New Horizons, and new discoveries have been coming in quickly about this previously little-known world. The first paper detailing these results so far, “The Pluto System: Initial Results from its Exploration by New Horizons,” has now been published in Science. New Horizons has revealed Pluto and its moons to be more complex and geologically active than ever thought.

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A colourful world: new images of Pluto show blue skies and red water ice

The blue skies of Pluto, as seen in this image from New Horizons. Pluto is backlit by the Sun, revealing the multilayered hazes in the atmosphere. Soot-like particles in the atmosphere scatter sunlight in a way that the atmosphere appears blue, similar to what happens on Earth. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
The blue skies of Pluto, as seen in this image from New Horizons. Pluto is backlit by the Sun, revealing the multilayered hazes in the atmosphere. Soot-like particles in the atmosphere scatter sunlight in a way that the atmosphere appears blue, similar to what happens on Earth. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

As new images and data continue to be sent back from the New Horizons spacecraft, scientists have quickly learned that Pluto is a world full of surprises. Today, the mission team revealed that Pluto indeed is a weirdly colourful place – the latest images show blue skies and red water ice. Almost like home, although not quite.

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‘Snakeskin’ and methane ice: amazing new high-resolution images and maps of Pluto from New Horizons

Extended colour image showing the “snakeskin” terrain in the Tartarus Dorsa region, a mixture of blue-grey ridges and other reddish material. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI
Extended colour image showing the “snakeskin” terrain in the Tartarus Dorsa region, a mixture of blue-grey ridges and other reddish material. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

NASA released more new images of Pluto last Thursday, and, as has come to be expected, they are spectacular. The “snakeskin” image shows rippling terrain reminiscent of snakeskin or dragon scales, while other images show Pluto’s surface in the highest colour resolution yet. Spectral maps showing the distribution of methane ice on Pluto’s surface were also released today.

Read More‘Snakeskin’ and methane ice: amazing new high-resolution images and maps of Pluto from New Horizons