Initial results from New Horizon's exploration of distant Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69

May 16, 2019

On 1 January 2019, the New Horizons Spacecraft conducted a flyby of (486958) 2014 MU69 - a distant object orbiting in the outer reaches of the Solar System. In a new report, Alan Stern and colleagues present the first results from the flyby, showing that MU69 is an ancient relic that has remained largely untouched - even by the heat of the Sun - since its formation roughly 4.5 billion years ago. After passing Pluto in 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft continued into the Kuiper Belt, a region of the outer solar system beyond the orbit of Neptune populated by small icy bodies. MU69 is a Cold Classical Kuiper Belt Object, a class of objects thought to be largely undisturbed since the Solar System's formation due to their stable orbit and feeble heating from the distant Sun. As such, objects like MU69 preserve clues about the early history of the Solar System. The authors describe results from the New Horizons data that was transmitted back to Earth in the first few weeks after the flyby. Their analysis indicates that MU69 has a flattened bi-lobate shape, probably formed by the gentle collision of two smaller objects. Discrete geological units were identified on the surface, but there is little variation in color and composition. No moons, rings or dust clouds were found orbiting MU69; nor is there any evidence of an atmosphere. According to Stern et al., the insights gained in this study are based on only about 10% of the total data collected during the flyby; the full data transmission from the spacecraft to Earth is expected to be complete in 2020.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related Solar System Articles from Brightsurf:

Ultraviolet shines light on origins of the solar system
In the search to discover the origins of our solar system, an international team of researchers, including planetary scientist and cosmochemist James Lyons of Arizona State University, has compared the composition of the sun to the composition of the most ancient materials that formed in our solar system: refractory inclusions in unmetamorphosed meteorites.

Second alignment plane of solar system discovered
A study of comet motions indicates that the Solar System has a second alignment plane.

Pressure runs high at edge of solar system
Out at the boundary of our solar system, pressure runs high.

What a dying star's ashes tell us about the birth of our solar system
A UA-led team of researchers discovered a dust grain forged in a stellar explosion before our solar system was born.

What scientists found after sifting through dust in the solar system
Two recent studies report discoveries of dust rings in the inner solar system: a dust ring at Mercury's orbit, and a group of never-before-detected asteroids co-orbiting with Venus, supplying the dust in Venus' orbit.

Discovered: The most-distant solar system object ever observed
A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our solar system.

Discovery of the first body in the Solar System with an extrasolar origin
Asteroid 2015 BZ509 is the very first object in the Solar System shown to have an extrasolar origin.

First interstellar immigrant discovered in the solar system
A new study has discovered the first known permanent immigrant to our solar system.

A star disturbed the comets of the solar system in prehistory
About 70,000 years ago, when the human species was already on Earth, a small reddish star approached our solar system and gravitationally disturbed comets and asteroids.

Scientists detect comets outside our solar system
Scientists from MIT and other institutions, working closely with amateur astronomers, have spotted the dusty tails of six exocomets -- comets outside our solar system -- orbiting a faint star 800 light years from Earth.

Read More: Solar System News and Solar System Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to