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posted by martyb on Thursday July 27 2017, @10:03PM   Printer-friendly
from the Ready,-fire,-aim? dept.

Astronomers have observed the tiny Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69 as it passed in front of a background star:

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft changed our view of the outer solar system forever when it flew by Pluto in 2015. Now, it's on its way to the next destination: a Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known only as 2014 MU69. Although the spacecraft won't reach its target until New Year's Day in 2019, NASA is already looking ahead to learn as much about 2014 MU69 as possible, thanks to a convenient temporary alignment that recently allowed the object to pass in front of a background star.

[...] "This effort, spanning six months, three spacecraft, 24 portable ground-based telescopes, and NASA's SOFIA airborne observatory was the most challenging stellar occultation in the history of astronomy, but we did it!" said Alan Stern, the New Horizons mission principal investigator, in a press release. "We spied the shape and size of 2014 MU69 for the first time, a Kuiper Belt scientific treasure we will explore just over 17 months from now. Thanks to this success we can now plan the upcoming flyby with much more confidence."

The physical characteristics of 2014 MU69 are still unclear. It is estimated to have a diameter between 18 and 41 km, but may be composed of multiple objects.

Previously: New Horizons Measures the Brightness of Galaxies Before Going Into Hibernation

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27 2017, @11:58PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 27 2017, @11:58PM (#545532)

    For the alt-right and the New Age Left: occultation means blocking the light from the star, in this case. Happens when one body passes in from of another light emiting body, from the perspective of the viewer. It is one way to "see" things that reflect no or very little light.

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 28 2017, @07:20AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 28 2017, @07:20AM (#545647)

    On July 17 the third and final attempt to observe a stellar occultation by the next target of the New Horizons mission in the Kuiper Belt, 2014 MU69, succeeded with several telescopes seeing the star blink out briefly - in contrast to a similarly effortful attempt on June 3. In spite of placing two 'fences' of portable telescopes perpendicular to the expected shadow track, none of them saw anything. When this was finally acknowledged over a month later, the respective press release from NASA and the JHU APL was full of wild speculations about how MU69's shadow could have slipped somehow through the telescope fences and tried to spin the campaign's negative outcome as a success. Of course it wasn't: you can only claim success when at least one telescope has seen the target star blink out. []