How NASA Glimpsed The Mysterious Object ‘New Horizons’ Will Reach In 2019

necro81 writes: After its successful flyby of Pluto in July 2015, the New Horizons probe received a mission extension to fly past a Kuiper Belt object — named 2014 MU69 — in January 2019. However, we know few details about the object — its size, shape, albedo, whether it has any companions — which are crucial for planning the flyby. Based on observations from Hubble, the New Horizons team knew that the object would pass in front of a star — an occultation — on July 17th, which could provide some of this data. But the occultation would last for less than a second, would only be visible in Patagonia, and the star itself is quite dim. NASA set up 24 telescopes near one community to capture the event, and received lots of cooperation from locals: turning off streetlights, shutting down a nearby highway, and setting up trucks as windbreaks. At least five of those telescopes captured the occultation. This was the latest in a series of observations ahead of the flyby. “We had to go up to farmers’ doors and say ‘Hi, we’re here from NASA, we’re wondering if we can set up telescopes in your back pasture?'” one astronomer told Popular Science. “More often than not people were like ‘that sounds awesome, sure, we’ll help out!'”


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