New Horizons Will Kick Off The New Year With A Visit To MU69 In The Kuiper Belt

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Photo: New Horizons MU69 Rendering
Illustration of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering 2014 MU69 – nicknamed “Ultima Thule” – a Kuiper Belt object that orbits one billion miles beyond Pluto.

The New Horizons spacecraft is three years past and a billion miles away from its banner visit to Pluto. It'll fly by its next target in the first minutes of New Year's Day (in the Eastern Time Zone, at least), just after the ball drops in New York.

New Horizons' destination is MU69, or Ultima Thule, a tiny rocky object in the Kuiper Belt four billion miles from Earth. MU69 is tiny, just 30 kilometers across compared to Pluto's 2,400-kilometer diameter. But inside MU69 and other Kuiper Belt objects are the secrets that can tell scientists about the creation of our solar system.

CU Boulder astronomer Doug Duncan talked to Colorado Matters about the possible discoveries that await in the Kuiper Belt, and how New Horizons powers itself so far from home.