The New Horizons spacecraft, which has become one of the most important spacecraft in the history of NASA by visiting Pluto and showing us what the enigmatic planet is like, has recently set another milestone by capturing an image of a distant object located somewhere in the Kuiper Belt, at a distance of about 5,300 million kilometers from the Sun.
According to NASA, the Alien objects is, in fact, a plutino, an ancient object called 1994 JR1, with a diameter of about 150 kilometers. The plutinos, which are trans-orbital objects in a 3: 2 resonance with Neptune, from the inner part of the Kuiper Belt. In fact, about a quarter of the known Kuiper belt objects is plutinos. While researchers believe the object is most likely to be an object similar to pluto, they have yet to see the object for the first time. Until new images show researchers what the celestial object looks like, it will be considered by many as just another Alien object beyond Pluto.
When the images were taken, the ancient object was located 3.3 Billion miles from the sun, but only 280 million km from the New Horizons Spacecraft, setting a new record by a factor of at least 15, taking the price for the closes-ever image of a miniature object in the Kuiper Belt, which is referred to by astronomers as the ‘third zone’, located beyond the inner, rocky planets and the outer icy giants.
1994 JR1 is believed to be a minor planet that moves around our Sun in an orbit located beyond Neptune. It was discovered on May 12, 1994, by M. J. Irwin and A. Zytkow with the 2.5 m Isaac Newton Telescope at the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory on the island of La Palma.
NASA mission scientists are eager to get their hands on more of the images that the New Horizon’s spacecraft will provide in the future, which will allow them to study more of the ancient Kuiper Belt objects like never before.
New Horizons flew past the Plutonian system last July 14, achieving the first close observations of Pluto and its family of five moons. As you are reading this, the probe is already travelling to its next target.
Called 2014 MU69, the object is another important celestial body beyond Pluto which NASA’s spacecraft will meet on January 1, 2019. MU69 is believed to be 10 times and about 1000 times more massive compared to the average size of comets. However, MU69 is around 1 percent the size of Pluto and one-ten-thousandth the mass of the dwarf planet.