Home > space exploration > NASA picks New Horizons targets in Kuiper Belt

NASA picks New Horizons targets in Kuiper Belt

NASA has chosen three possible small objects in the region of space beyond Neptune that could serve as destinations for the New Horizons probe after it visits the dwarf planet Pluto.

The agency used the Hubble Space Telescope to select three Kuiper Belt objects, each only a tiny fraction the size of Pluto and ranging in size from 25-55 kilometers. All three KBOs are about one billion miles beyond Pluto.

The New Horizons probe is shown visiting a Kuiper Belt Object in this artist's impression. KBOs have never been visited by spacecraft; they are remnants of the earliest days of the solar system and are found in a region full of icy debris billions of miles from the Sun. Courtesy NASA, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Southwest Research Institute.

The New Horizons probe is shown visiting a Kuiper Belt Object in this artist’s impression. KBOs have never been visited by spacecraft; they are remnants of the earliest days of the solar system and are found in a region full of icy debris billions of miles from the Sun. Courtesy NASA, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Southwest Research Institute.

New Horizons will visit the Pluto system next summer. After doing so, the spacecraft will continue to travel deeper into the farthest reaches of the solar system, where objects have remained frozen since the formation of the planets and dwarf planets billions of years ago.

New Horizons was launched on Jan. 19, 2006. By the time it reaches the three potential KBOs found by the Hubble Space Telescope, it will have traveled about four billion miles from the sun.

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