NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has been given the go-ahead to conduct an intensive search for a suitable outer solar system object that the New Horizons (NH) spacecraft could visit after the probe streaks though the Pluto system in July 2015.
Hubble observations will begin in July and are expected to conclude in August.
Assuming a suitable target is found at the completion of the survey and some follow-up observations are made later in the year, if NASA approves, the New Horizons’ trajectory can be modified in the fall of 2015 to rendezvous with the target Kuiper Belt object (KBO) three to four years later.
PASADENA, Calif.—Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), has been named a co-winner of the 2012 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics for his efforts to understand the outer solar system—work that led to the demotion of Pluto.
Brown shares the award with David Jewitt (MS ’80, PhD ’83) of UCLA and Jane Luu of MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory; in 1992, Jewitt and Liu discovered the first object in the Kuiper belt, a collection of more than a thousand objects beyond the orbit of Neptune. Brown, who joined Caltech’s faculty in 1997, has since become a leader in the search for planet-sized objects in the Kuiper belt. According to the prize citation, the three received the prize “for discovering and characterizing the Kuiper belt and its largest members, work that led to a major advance in the understanding of the history of our planetary system.”
Full Story: http://news.caltech.edu/press_releases/13515
The bizarre, hourglass-shaped Kuiper Belt Object 2001QG298 spins round like a propeller as it orbits the Sun, according to an astronomer from Queens University Belfast. The discovery that the spinning object is tilted at nearly 90 degrees to the ecliptic plane is surprising, and suggests that this type of object could be very common in the Kuiper Belt. The finding will be presented by Dr Pedro Lacerda at the Joint Meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the Division for Planetary Sciences (EPSC-DPS 2011) in Nantes, France, on 3 October 2011.
Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) orbit the Sun beyond Neptune and are the best preserved leftovers of the formation of the planets. 2001QG298 is a remarkable KBO made up from two components that orbit each other very closely, possibly touching.
“Imagine that you glue two eggs together tip to tip – that’s approximately the shape of 2001QG298. It looks a bit like an hourglass,” says Lacerda.