The New Horizons craft has been flying near to Pluto over a month now and has taken close photos of the dwarf planet. A smaller object known as the Kuiper belt object or KBO, specially named 2014 MU69 is the next target of the spacecraft. The probe that was sent to photograph and capture details of the ninth planet was also meant to go beyond and capture other space objects. The probe has been filled with fuel and also equipped with the right communications systems so that it can work even if it is located farther away, in the Kuiper region.
NASA took some time to identify the next object that the probe could explore. The Hubble telescope showed the KBO which had come in the flight path of the probe in 2014. Hence, it was identified as the next target for discovery. 2014 MU69 has been named as the potential target number one and it is considered to have mass which is equivalent to one percent of the mass that is on Pluto. It will be of a width of 30 miles. PTI is an instance of several KBOs that are believed to be the building blocks of small planets. This region does not get the sun and hence, the samples if gathered from the object, will showcase preserved and frozen remains of what the outer solar system consists of, indicating the constituency of objects that existed from 4.6 billion years in history.
The object is termed as the potential as the team that is working with the New Horizon spacecraft needs to put in a proposal which needs to get approved by 2016. The spacecraft needs to be maneuvered and made ready in the months of October and November to ensure that the fuel is not wasted and it is ready to undertake the journey further. If the project is approved, the spacecraft will gear up for the journey to reach the Kuiper belt. This will take a period of three years for the journey to be executed.
There is a lot of research that has gone into understanding of the Kuiper belt. It is considered to be a ring of freezing debris that orbits at a distance of four billion miles or more. The debris is considered to be parts that exploded when planets collided and formed. The Kuiper belt is estimated to have 33000 objects that are spread across a width of 60 meters. The belt has three small or dwarf planets as well.