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Long-Distance Kuiper Belt Objects
Release Date: February 8, 2018
During its extended mission in the Kuiper Belt, New Horizons is aiming to observe at least two-dozen Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs), dwarf planets and “Centaurs,” former KBOs in unstable orbits that cross the orbits of the giant planets. With its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) New Horizons has observed several KBOs and dwarf planets at unique phase angles, as well as Centaurs at extremely high phase angles to search for forward-scattering rings or dust.
This December 2017 false-color image of KBO 2012 HE85 is, for now, one of the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. At the time it was among the closest observations yet made of the mysterious, distant objects known as KBOs. New Horizons’ range to 2012 HE85 was only 32 million miles (51 million kilometers, or 0.34 AU) – closer than the planet Mars ever comes to Earth.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute