'New Horizons' Spacecraft Will Pass By A Distant "Red Planet" Way Past Pluto, Observation from 'Hubble Telescope' Suggests

First Posted: Oct 19, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

New observations from the Hubble Space Telescope is suggesting that NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is expected to be flying an object much redder than that of Pluto. The space telescope is seeing a very red object floating form faraway. Hubble is used by the New Horizons team in studying 11 objects within the realm of frigid bodies way past Neptune's orbit called the Kuiper Belt. One of the most famous resident of the said realm is Pluto. Out of the 11 object that are being studied, 2014 MU69 is one of them which is expected to be passed by the New Horizon spacecraft on January 1, 2019.

According to Amanda Zangari, New Horizons post-doctoral rerearcher from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, upon their further observations from Hubble shows that the distant object 2014 MU69, "is even redder than Pluto, though not as red as Mars." This was during a news conference at a joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Congress in Pasadena, California. While the size of 2014 MU69's size is still a mystery to the astronomers, many of them believe that the object is just 13 to 35 miles (21 to 40km) wide. As of now, 2014 MU69 is the smallest Kuiper Belt Object that the color has been measured.

Knowing the color hue of 2014 MU69, this information strongly suggests that 2014 MU69 is part of the Kuiper Belt's "cold classical" region. This region of the Kuiper Belt is said to harbor primordial objects that have changed little since the beginning of the solar system from 4.6 billion years ago.

The $700 million New Horizons mission was launched way back January 2006. The spacecraft made its first-ever flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015 and came within 7,800 miles of the distant planet's surface. The said fly-by revealed Pluto's complex and rich landscape diversity for scientists back on the ground can study.

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