Second stop planned for mission to Pluto

distant Kuiper belt object

A promising second target (circled) for New Horizons streaks between two distant stars (bright spots) in this series of images from the Hubble Space Telescope. 

New Horizons KBO Search Team, JHU/APL, SwRI, NASA, ESA

Guest post by Christopher Crockett

NASA’s New Horizons mission may have somewhere to go after flying by Pluto next summer. Mission scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have finally identified three possible destinations within the Kuiper belt, the ring of icy debris that lies beyond the orbit of Neptune.

The most promising target is a boulder of ice about 55 kilometers across and nearly 2 billion kilometers beyond Pluto. Each body is a time capsule, untouched by the sun, preserving the building blocks of the solar system in a 4.6-billion-year deep freeze.

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