An artist’s illustration of the New Horizons spacecraft sending data to Earth. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
New Horizons made an epic flyby of a Kuiper Belt object to bring in the new year. But the scientists behind the spacecraft won’t truly understand the data gathered during that flyby until a brand-new batch of observations reaches Earth.
Instruments on the spacecraft made those observations between 29 August and 5 September, the mission’s second observing window since the New Year’s flyby of a distant Solar System object called 2014 MU69, sometimes referred to as Ultima Thule. During the week of work, New Horizons instruments turned toward a set of familiar stars to gather calibration data and studied an eclectic group of outer Solar System objects to address miscellaneous science questions.
“We’ve got lots of stuff going on — this is one of the busiest times we’ve had since the flyby of MU69,” Hal Weaver, project scientist for New Horizons at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, told Space.com during the observation period. “There’s a lot on our plate over this next week, but so far, all indications are that things are working properly and the spacecraft ...