Space Billiards #NewHorizons @profmcateer

New Horizons was launched 2006 and has already flown 3 billion miles over 10 years on its journey of discovery. We now know Pluto is active with recent ice flows and a thin atmosphere. But the mission is far from over. It’s still moving outwards at about 15km per second, it has plenty of fuel, and the instrument packages are still working. Now astronomers get a free shot at the next target.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 4.20.23 PMLuckily there is no shortage of targets.

The terrain beyond Pluto is a mostly unexplored treasure trove of opportunities for discovery, known as the Kuiper Belt. This realm is home to millions of small icy bodies, and present vital clues to the origins of the solar system. Usually the only chance we have to see one of these close up is when they visit us, as comets. But now as New Horizons plummets on into this space NASA have picked a target so we can really see one of these up close. The rather mundanely-named 2014MU69 was selected last year as the best follow on target. It is probably another 1.5 billion miles away and may be only a few 10km across, but we know its there and last week NASA carried out the course corrections to send the spacecraft that way. In Jan 2019, the spacecraft should thread the needle and intersect 2014MU69.

Kind of like space billiards, but with moving targets.

This mission hasn’t actually been approved by NASA yet but the additional expense getting to MU69 is small compared to the large payoff. Opportunities to visit our distant cousins are rare, so this is one we’ll take advantage of.

Advertisements

13 comments on “Space Billiards #NewHorizons @profmcateer

  1. That is awesome that Pluto is showing signs of activity! I am interested to see the outcome with the spacecraft in January of 2019.

    Like

  2. If people actually looked at what these people do at NASA and think it is easy they are very wrong. So much work is needed to not only make the craft go but also maneuver it’s way through space without collisions. The better and farther we can go the more we will discover!

    Like

  3. It’s crazy to think how much thought and effort goes into planning such missions as this one and actually being successful in carrying it out. I can’t imagine the precision and standards by which the teams at NASA have to work by in order to make discovery possible. It is beyond me.

    Like

  4. Our universe is full of surprises. I never thought that a dwarf planet that is that far away from the sun would be active.

    Like

  5. I think its amazing how much our technology has advanced enough to make this possible! It makes me excited to see what else will come in the next few years.

    Like

  6. The capabilities with this mission is countless. We can find new planetary bodies out there hidden out there. Maybe one day will communicate with intelligent life by sending vessels as methods of communication.

    Like

  7. Wow! Its been 10+ years already, I can vaguely remember the day when this New Horizons mission was launched back in 2006. A mission like this takes a lot of time and requires a lot of patience, dedication and perseverance, but in the end, it surely is worth it. Time to enter ‘The Ice World’ of our solar system, amazing just simply amazing. God Speed, New Horizons ;0)

    Like

  8. This just makes me think about the technology and cameras being sent out today and what information they will give us since we have way better cameras now than before.

    Like

  9. I think that viewing the objects outside of our solar system can be seen as fascinating and essential to know what is truly out there in our world. The universe is so much more than just our solar system and the 8 planets that endure it. This is a fascinating read.

    Like

  10. I think it’s really amazing how we can identify object in our Galaxy that are billions of miles away. It makes you wonder how far we can identify in another five years or even ten years! its also really cool to see how odd our Galaxy functions, flowing in all sorts of directions.This article really opened my mind.

    Like

  11. Quite crazy to think all of this relies on small calculations we have made. It is essentially finding the tiniest gap in a huge minefield and I hope it doesn’t trigger one.

    Like

Comments are closed.