Scientists ponder which of the two ice bodies of the spacecraft NASA's "New horizons" is a must visit after Pluto, which will face this summer — assuming the us space Agency will receive sufficient funding to extend the mission.
The command "New horizons" addressed to the Hubble space telescope to find Kuiper belt objects that are well placed to achieve "New horizons".
Two candidates from the five candidates, discovered by Hubble, who spent 45 days last summer in search of goals. Follow-up in October reduced the list to two objects in the field of reach of the spacecraft, fuel is limited. About the same time, scientists told the Conference the lunar and planetary Sciences in Houston last week.
New objects — 2014 MT69, 60-kilometer body rotating in 44.3 times farther from the Sun than the Earth. Meeting with the MT69 will take place on New year's eve 2019.
"It's not very bright and not very big goal, it can be much less or to be part of a binary system," said astronomer from the team "New horizons" Simon porter.
The advantage MT69 that New horizons can reach it with a minimum of fuel. Meeting also to be held three months earlier than in the case of another candidate, 2014 MT70.
MT60 MT70 brighter and possibly more, with a diameter of about 76 kilometers, therefore, more desirable from a scientific point of view, says porter.
"We can only get to one of them, so you need to make a decision. MT69 is the favorite because he has a lower Delta-v (speed change). Engineers love that. On the other hand, they're not really dim objects, because the approach much fuel it will take to end the amendments of course."
Also, such a meeting can be difficult because of the position of the Sun in a while.
"We have to choose between size and Delta-v," says porter.
The extended mission will also include remote monitoring of an increasing number of objects in the Kuiper belt. New horizons now closer to Pluto than Earth is to the Sun. This spacecraft launched in January 2006, will depart from Pluto 10 000 kilometers on 14 July. To come closer to an object in the Kuiper belt, "New horizons" will have to maneuver somewhere in October. To what purpose will travel the spacecraft will be resolved, likely in August. published