The New Horizons spaceship sends by NASA is currently halfway between Pluto and the Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69. NASA reminds us that New Horizons probe reached the closest point to Pluto back in July 2015. Up to April 2nd, 8:00 p.m. EST, the spacecraft traveled about 486.19 million miles, meaning half of the distance towards KBO 2014 MU69.
- NASA’s New Horizons spaceship has completed half its journey after visiting Pluto and collecting data from there.
- On April 2, the probe traveled 486.19 million miles, being half its way towards KBO 2014 MU 69.
- Scientists hope that the spacecraft will be able to observe other KBO objects at the edge of the universe.
Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, form the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, stated that it is great news that the probe managed to complete half its journey up to this point. He argued that the next flyby is bound to set the record for the most distant space travel ever performed in the history of humankind.
Starting with April 7, for the next 157 days, New Horizons spaceship will hibernate to recharge its batteries. The probe has been exploring outer space since December 2014. Before that, the spacecraft spent approximately seven years in hibernation on its way from Jupiter to Pluto. After arriving at Pluto, the spaceship has offered scientists back home a wide amount of data regarding the Kuiper Belt. This constitutes a ring of asteroids and also includes three dwarf planets located on the outer edge of the solar system.
New Horizons spaceship has analyzed the cloud of hydrogen gas around the sun called heliosphere. Hal Weaver, a project scientist at New Horizons from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, claimed that the flyby scheduled for January 2019 towards KBO MU69 represents the next big event for NASA. Moreover, besides studying MU69, scientists plan to direct the spacecraft to analyze other KBOs, examining the dust environment and measuring the charged particles all the way across the asteroid belt.
The probe had traveled about 3.5 billion miles from Earth since its launch back in January 2006. To reach the spaceship, a radio signal which travels with light speed from Earth will need about 5 hours and 20 minutes. NASA became interested in analyzing the 2014 MU 69 due to its faintness making it hard to be observed in detail with the existing equipment. Back in 2014, The Hubble Telescope identified it but could not collect too much data.
Image source: wikipedia