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NASA’s New Horizons explore was perched to attain several major milestones at once, when it flared off for Pluto way back in 2006. When the mission started off, Pluto was already a planet and it would be visiting the last planet still unexplored at close quarters. It was seemed to be the first mission in order to probe a class of planet vastly different from the solar system’s rocky inner worlds and also from the gas giants further out. Pluto symbolized adjacent to the ice worlds that prowl at the edges of the Sun’s influence, even after it was relegated to ‘dwarf planet’. In order to understand their true nature, a close encounter along with the New Horizons were designated to provide it.
However, once the search beats past Pluto and its moon Charon next July, it will still have operation equipments and fuel to burn. “It might have somewhere to go and other scientific goal to achieve,” NASA stated. The researchers told, a thorough search with the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed three icy bodies more or less along New Horizons’ post-Pluto path and a billion miles (1.6 billion km) further out. Probably, in 2018 or 2019, the search could be getting a close look at Kuiper Belt Objects (KBO), which is a primordial remnant left from the very earliest days of the Solar System.
Alan Stern, a planetary scientist with the Southwest Research Institute, in Boulder, CO, and New Horizons’ Principal Investigator stated that, “The objects found by Hubble Telescope are much smaller than Pluto. They are the building blocks from which Pluto was actually made of.”
The Hubble Telescope found this discovery in just under the wire. The rocket burn that will readjust New Horizons path to interrupt one of the KBO’s won’t ensue until after the Pluto encounter. However, in order to analyze that intricate maneuver, ground controllers need to know precisely how the KBO’s themselves are moving. Stern stated, “We need to make a series of observations, to connect the dots.” And if they still didn’t have a first set of observations, they wouldn’t have enough dots to connect.
From one perspective, researchers have already gotten a close look at KBO’s: Europe’s Rosetta probe went into orbit around a comet in August, with plans to set down a lander on its surface on November 9 and a comet is essentially a KBO that has wandered into the inner Solar System.
Though, this eventually means it’s been exposed to the Sun’s heat, so contrasting to its cousins further out, it’s not truly primeval. Further, these 3 new objects are between 15 and 35 miles (24 and 56 km) across, which is about 10 times bigger and a 1000 times more massive than Rosetta’s comet, whereas still 1000 times lesscolossal than Pluto. The KBO New Horizons visits, whichever place, will therefore fill in a huge gap, helping scientists understand how Pluto itself formed.
Certainly, it will, if NASA approves the extended maneuver, funding the search for longer than it was already planned. Though, this type of second act is not strange as Hubble itself has had extended missions several times, and so did the Spirits and Opportunity rovers on the Mars. But, it’s not guaranteed and we need to make a proposal, but at least we now have something tangible to suggest Stern said.
Still, if the maneuver is green-lit and that 2nd encounter comes off, New Horizons still might not be done. Stern stated that, “We’re going to keep looking for other KBO’s even farther out.” If they are close enough to New Horizons’ path, and if there’s enough fuel left for another trajectory adjustment, next July’s Pluto flyby could be just the start of an extraordinary series of close encounters with the most remote colonies in the Sun’s cosmic empire.