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Occultations of New Horizons' Next Target (2014 MU69) Observed

Accepted submission by takyon at 2017-07-27 10:18:10

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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