Leaving its main goal far behind, NASA’s New Horizons mission became a kind of emissary in the depths of space for humanity.
The probe flew near Pluto and its satellite system on July 14, 2015, presenting us with an unprecedented and stunning view of a dwarf planet. But Pluto is currently millions of miles behind, and the New Horizons are racing towards the Kuiper Belt (DIC) object, called 2014 MU69.
However, the device does not waste time, it is engaged in research, becoming the only mission ever investigated Kuiper Belt. At the moment, the New Horizons are closely watching the MIC called 1994 JR1.
Using the “eagle eyes” of New Horizons (LORRI), the mission in April photographed 1994 JR1 from a distance of about 69 million miles. This is the second time the mission has conducted a survey of this 90-mile-wide object. The first time it happened was in November 2015, when the spacecraft was at a distance of 170 million miles. These are the closest images of Kuiper belt objects.
“Combining observations from November 2015 and April 2016 allows you to accurately determine the location of the JR1 within 1000 km (about 600 miles),” said Simon Porter, a member of the New Horizons research team from the South-West Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado . These observations are very valuable because it helps scientists understand where this object came from. It was suggested that 1994 JR1 would have once been a quasi-satellite Pluto. These new observations immediately dispelled this idea.
"It is interesting that with the help of this series of observations, astronomers were able to deduce the rotational speed of an object - it rotates very quickly! Observing the small clarifications and darkings of 1994 JR1, the scientists found out that the object rotates at a speed of 5, 4 hours, which is relatively fast for the OPK" , said John Spencer, also from the Southwestern Research Institute in Boulder. "I would like to believe that the New Horizons are able to make similar measurements for another 20 OPK."
The Kuiper belt is an ancient region filled with the remnants of a young solar system. Studying Pluto, its satellites and mysterious objects deep inside the Kuiper belt, we begin to understand. how the planets and the entire solar system were formed.