New Horizons Spots Dwarf Planet Candidate in the Kuiper Belt


Quaoar isn’t New Horizons’ target, but the probe has been tracking the unique Kuiper Belt object on its way to study 2014 MU69, an ancient object beyond Pluto.

As the NASA probe won’t meet 2014 MU69 until 2019, it has plenty of time to snap pictures. Its current trajectory through the Kuiper Belt gives it a unique vantage from which to spot dwarf planet candidates like Quaoar.

Quaoar stretches some 690 miles across, about half the size of Pluto. The dwarf planet was first identified in 2002. Its moon, Weywot, was spotted in 2007. Scientists have also previously observed signs of water ice on its surface, suggesting Quaoar is host to cryovolcanism.

In July, New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager snapped four photos of the planetary mass. Recently, NASA scientists pieced the images together to create an animation.

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SOURCE: UPI, Brooks Hays