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January 15-21, 2018 / Vol 37, No 3 / Hawai`i Island, USA

12 Jan 2018, 20:36 UTC
January 15-21, 2018 / Vol 37, No 3 / Hawai`i Island, USA
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New Horizons Going on 13 Years, Looks to First-Ever KBO / Farthest Frontier Encounter New Year’s Day 2019

This January 19 New Horizons (NH) reaches 12 full years in space while preparing for the farthest spacecraft encounter in history planned for Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 on Jan 1, 2019 located ~6.437 billion km from Earth. Currently in hibernation mode, the NASA craft is set to awaken June 4 for the KBO approach which officially begins in August, culminating in a flyby at 3,500 km. Principal Investigator Alan Stern notes “this flyby is also going to the most primitive and pristine object ever explored.” It is still unclear whether the KBO is a dual-lobe object and / or has moon(s). NH will produce high-res images of the KBO, search for a cometary coma, map potential satellite orbits, and scan for water, ammonia, carbon monoxide and methane ices. A number of NASA missions are questionable for 2018+ budgetary / political support, but the NH science team is hopeful the craft will continue a legacy of icy world exploration and operate until at least mid-2030s, studying dozens of KBOs. It is destined to collect valuable data on the unexplored Kuiper Belt ‘3rd ...

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