New Horizons captures first record-breaking images of distant Kuiper Belt object

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Dec 10, 2015, 2:55 PM EST (Updated)

My contacts have been acting up lately, providing some annoying blurry vision issues as I type away on my trusty Macbook, but NASA's New Horizons spacecraft doesn't seem to be having similar issues, as these startling new images from the Kuiper Belt prove.  Soaring past the Pluto system en route to a future rendezvous with the 30-mile-wide 2014 MU69 in January 2019 pending budgetary approval, New Horizons continues to astonish scientists and astronomers around the world.  On Nov. 2, the spacecraft snapped four shots of 1994 JR1, a mysterious 90-mile-wide Kuiper Belt object from a distance of 170 million miles, the closest photos of a small object in this cluttered asteroid zone ever obtained. 

"This sets a record, by a factor of at least 15, for the closest-ever picture of a small body in the Kuiper Belt, the solar system's 'third zone' beyond the inner, rocky planets and outer, icy gas giants," the New Horizons' team said in an official statement. "Mission scientists plan to use images like these to study many more ancient Kuiper Belt objects from New Horizons if an extended mission is approved."

According to NASA, these eye-opening observations could shed further light on the solar system's early days, due to the theory that small Kuiper Belt Objects are most likely more primitive and pristine than the icy climate of Pluto, which still shows signs of recent geological activity on its dimpled, rocky surface.

Take a look into the dark depths of our solar system at this distant celestial object orbiting 3.3 billion miles from the sun, and somebody please pass me the saline solution, I'm fogging up again!


(Via Space)

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