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Hubble Finds Kuiper Belt Targets for New Horizons

By David Reneke

The Hubble has found Kuiper Belt targets for the New Horizons program, and monster galaxies are gaining weight by cannibalising neighbours.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered three Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft could potentially visit after it flies by Pluto in July 2015.The New Horizons spacecraft, launched in 2006, is the first mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program.

The Kuiper Belt is a vast rim of primordial debris encircling our solar system. KBOs belong to a unique class of solar system objects that has never been visited by spacecraft.

So why go there? Well, astronomers believe these mini worlds could contain clues to the origin of our solar system, including the biomarkers that eventually kickstarted life here.

The KBOs Hubble found are each about 10 times larger than typical comets, but only about 1–2% of the size of Pluto. Unlike asteroids, KBOs have not been heated by the Sun and are thought to represent a pristine, well-preserved deep freeze sample of what the outer solar system was like following its birth 4.6 billion years ago. The KBOs found in the Hubble data are thought to be the building blocks of dwarf planets such as Pluto.

The New Horizons team started to look for suitable KBOs in 2011 using some of the largest ground-based telescopes on Earth. Several dozen KBOs were initially identified, but most were beyond New Horizon’s boundaries.

Eventually the Hubble Space Telescope came to the rescue with new reachable...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.