NASA's New Horizon spacecraft is set to explore small ancient object 2014 MU69 discovered by Hubble Space Telescope in 2014.
This object is located 1.6 billion km beyond Pluto.
The object is in the Kuiper Belt, a distant region that surrounds the solar system and is filled with trillions of icy rocks that have yet to be explored.
The spacecraft took about 16 months to beam back all of the data from the Pluto flyby and planetary scientists are studying the developments.
The next big stage of the mission, the flyby of 2014 MU69, will occur in January 2019.
MU69 is much smaller and more representative of the trillions of other KBOs.
Pluto is comparable to the size of North America at 2,370 km in diameter.
MU69 is less than 45 km across. It has a special kind of orbit that makes it possibly a type of object that is primordial and left over from early solar system formation.About the Kuiper Belt
- The Kuiper belt is sometimes called the Edgeworth–Kuiper belt.
- It is a circumstellar disc in the Solar System beyond the planets.
- It is extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun.
- It is similar to the asteroid belt, but it is far larger - 20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive.
- The Kuiper belt is home to three officially recognized dwarf planets: Pluto, Haumea, and Makemake.
- Some moons, such as Neptune's Triton and Saturn's Phoebe, are also thought to have originated in the region.