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Plot thickens as New Horizons moves within year of next flyby

6 January 2018 Stephen Clark

The final days before NASA’s New Horizons probe barrels in on its next destination on Jan. 1, 2019, should prove eventful, with scientists trying to sort out whether a distant mini-world detected by the Hubble Space Telescope more than three years ago may actually be a swarm of icy objects.

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Scientists firm up flyby plan for New Horizons’ next destination

21 September 2017 Stephen Clark

Now more than two years outbound from its historic encounter with Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is on target for a fleeting flyby less than 2,200 miles from 2014 MU69, an icy, city-sized world set to become the most distant object ever visited, just after midnight Jan. 1, 2019. Scientists now say the probe may be able to pursue another destination some time in the 2020s.

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New Horizons’ next target might be a binary pair

8 August 2017 Stephen Clark

Ground observations of the New Horizons spacecraft’s next target last month revealed the distant object, lurking in the outer Solar System more than four billion miles from Earth, might have an unconventional elongated shape, or even consist of two icy bodies orbiting one another in an age-old cosmic dance.

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The curious case of the warped Kuiper Belt

22 June 2017 Astronomy Now

An unknown, unseen “planetary mass object” may lurk in the outer reaches of our solar system, according to new research on the orbits of minor planets to be published in the Astronomical Journal. This object would be different from — and much closer than — the so-called Planet Nine, a planet whose existence yet awaits confirmation.

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Hubble spots moon around third largest dwarf planet

18 May 2017 Astronomy Now

The combined power of three space observatories, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, has helped astronomers uncover a moon orbiting the third largest dwarf planet, catalogued as 2007 OR10. The pair resides in the frigid outskirts of our solar system called the Kuiper Belt, a realm of icy debris left over from our solar system’s formation 4.6 billion years ago.

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New analysis supports subsurface ocean on Pluto

16 November 2016 Astronomy Now

A liquid ocean lying deep beneath Pluto’s frozen surface is the best explanation for features revealed by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, according to a new analysis. The idea that Pluto has a subsurface ocean is not new, but the study provides the most detailed investigation yet of its likely role in the evolution of key features such as the vast, low-lying plain known as Sputnik Planitia (formerly Sputnik Planum).