A look at the farthest object to date!

Latest Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 imaged by New Horizons. Credit: NASA/JHU-APL/ SwRI

Latest Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 imaged by New Horizons. Credit: NASA/JHU-APL/ SwRI

Greetings Earthlings to another segment of Universe Playpen!

And our universe of knowledge has expanded just a little these past couple weeks! The New Horizons mission just successfully imaged the farthest object we have- MU69 in the Kuiper Belt!

This magnificent object has been puzzling us since it became the next extended mission as New Horizons ZOOMS through the Kuiper Belt. And it didn’t disappoint! In fact, it gave us even more questions to think about, such as: how do binary objects form in the Kuiper Belt? What kind of ices are involved? Are there others with the same coloring and structure of squishiness?

SO MANY QUESTIONS! This should keep us busy for a while…

A little bit about MU69:

From the latest pictures downloaded from New Horizons, there are numerous small pits up to about 0.7 kilometers in diameter. The large circular feature, about 7 km across, on the smaller of the two lobes, also appears to be a deep depression. Not clear is whether these pits are impact craters or features resulting from other processes, such as venting of volatile materials, like comets.

Both lobes also show many intriguing light and dark patterns of unknown origin, which may reveal clues about how this body was assembled during the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago. One of the most striking of these is the bright "collar" separating the two lobes!

Currently, data downloading is REALLY SLOW! That is, New Horizons is currently over 4 billion miles away, so a 1-way signal to the spacecraft takes over 6 hours! Hopefully we’ll get more updated images in the coming weeks!

Thank you for reading and come back next week for a look at some awesome Titan rain clouds!

Caitlin Ahrens