Life after Pluto: New Horizons to head for Kuiper belt boulder

New Horizons will buzz a boulder in the Kuiper belt, seen in this artist’s illustration, on January 1, 2019.

NASA, JHUAPL, SwRI, Alex Parker

With Pluto receding in the rear view mirror, New Horizons now has its sights set on a second target. Pending final approval by NASA, an icy boulder dubbed 2014 MU69 — over 1 billion kilometers beyond Pluto — will be graced by the spacecraft’s presence on January 1, 2019, space agency officials announced August 28.

The next stop lives deep in the Kuiper belt, a ring of frozen debris past Neptune that is left over from the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. New Horizons will fire its engines four times in late October and early November to send it on its way. 

Christopher Crockett is a freelance science writer and editor based in Arlington, Va. He has a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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