Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Two Kuiper Belt objects found: Hubble to proceed with full search for New Horizons targets

Date:
July 1, 2014
Source:
Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI)
Summary:
Planetary scientists have successfully used the Hubble Space Telescope to find two Kuiper Belt objects for NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto. After the marathon probe zooms past Pluto in July 2015, it will travel across the Kuiper Belt -- a vast rim of primitive ice bodies left over from the birth of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago. If NASA approves, the probe could be redirected to fly to a Kuiper Belt object and photograph it up close.

These images are from a Hubble Space Telescope survey to find Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) in support of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto.
Credit: NASA, ESA, SwRI, JHU/APL, and the New Horizons KBO Search Team

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.

Related Articles


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 Horizon's trajectory can be modified in the fall of 2015 to rendezvous with the target Kuiper Belt object (KBO) three to four years later.

The Kuiper Belt is a debris field of icy bodies left over from the solar system's formation 4.6 billion years ago. Though the belt was hypothesized in a 1951 science paper by astronomer Gerard Kuiper, no Kuiper Belt objects were found until the early 1990s. So far over 1,000 KBOs have been cataloged, though it's hypothesized many more KBOs exist.

The approval for additional observing time for the needle-in-a-haystack search is based on the analysis of a set of pilot observations obtained with the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) director's discretionary time on Hubble. After a swift and intensive data analysis of approximately 200 Hubble images, the NH team met the pilot program criterion of finding a minimum of two KBOs.

"Once again the Hubble Space Telescope has demonstrated the ability to explore the universe in new and unexpected ways," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. "Hubble science is at its best when it works in concert with other NASA missions and ground-based observatories."

It will be many weeks before the team can establish whether either of these pilot-program KBOs is a suitable target for New Horizons to visit, but their discovery provides sufficient evidence that a wider search to be executed with Hubble will find an optimum object.

"I am delighted that our initial investment of Hubble time paid off. We are looking forward see if the team can find a suitable KBO that New Horizons might be able to visit after its fly-by of Pluto," said STScI director Matt Mountain.

In early June, Hubble's Time Allocation Committee awarded time for a full search with the requirement that its implementation be contingent on the success of the pilot survey.

From June 16 to June 26, the New Horizons team used Hubble to perform a preliminary search to see how abundant small Kuiper Belt objects are in the vast outer rim of our solar system.

Hubble looked at 20 areas of the sky to identify any small KBOs. The team analyzed each of pilot program images with software tools that sped up the KBO identification process. Hubble's sharp vision and unique sensitivity allowed very faint KBOs to be identified as they drifted against the far more distant background stars, objects that had previously eluded searches by some of the world's largest ground-based telescopes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). "Two Kuiper Belt objects found: Hubble to proceed with full search for New Horizons targets." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701145525.htm>.
Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). (2014, July 1). Two Kuiper Belt objects found: Hubble to proceed with full search for New Horizons targets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701145525.htm
Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI). "Two Kuiper Belt objects found: Hubble to proceed with full search for New Horizons targets." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701145525.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: China Launches Moon Orbiter

Raw: China Launches Moon Orbiter

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) China launched an experimental spacecraft Friday to fly around the moon and back to Earth in preparation for the country's first unmanned return trip to the lunar surface. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

China Prepares Unmanned Mission To Lunar Orbit

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) The mission is China's next step toward automated sample-return missions and eventual manned missions to the moon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Russian Cosmonauts Kick Off Final Spacewalk of 2014

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 22, 2014) Russian cosmonauts Maxim Suraev and Alexander Samokutyaev step outside the International Space Station to perform work on the exterior of the station's Russian module. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins