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New Horizons Flyby Plan Finalized; Pluto Features Named

Accepted submission by takyon at 2017-09-11 15:58:34
Science

The New Horizons [wikipedia.org] spacecraft will fly closer to the Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69 [wikipedia.org] than it did to Pluto in 2015. 2014 MU69 is thought to be a binary pair or contact binary:

New Horizons' highest-resolution camera, the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI [nasa.gov]), has imaged details as small as 600 feet (183 meters) in diameter on Pluto's surface; however, on MU69, it will be able to resolve details down to a diameter of 230 feet (70 meters).

"We're planning to fly closer to MU69 than to Pluto to get even higher resolution imagery and other datasets. The science should be spectacular," emphasized mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.

[...] Observations of the KBO conducted in July when it passed in front of a star suggest that it could be a binary system [spaceflightinsider.com] composed of two objects or a single object with two lobes.

The International Astronomical Union has announced names for 14 features (such as craters, valleys, and mountain ranges) on Pluto:

These include Tombaugh Regio for the "heart" feature on Pluto's surface, Sputnik Planitia for the icy plain on the left side of the heart, Burney crater for a crater west of the heart, Voyager Terra for a region northwest of the heart, and several more.

[...] "The approved designations honor many people and space missions who paved the way for the historic exploration of Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, the farthest worlds ever explored," Stern said.

Previously: Occultations of New Horizons' Next Target (2014 MU69) Observed [soylentnews.org]
New Horizons Target 2014 MU69 May be a "Contact Binary" [soylentnews.org]


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