Dozens of Telescopes Across Two Continents Try To Catch Glimpse of Kuiper Belt Object

By  //  June 16, 2017

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most challenging observayion campaign ever

ABOVE VIDEO: NASA’s New Horizons mission is just two years away from its next target, a small Kuiper Belt object that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

(NASA) – It was the most technically-challenging and complex stellar occultation observation campaign ever attempted: At least 54 observing teams with dozens of telescopes dispatched across two continents, positioned to catch a rare, two-second glimpse of a small, distant Kuiper Belt object passing in front of a star.

And it wasn’t just any KBO — it was the next flyby target of NASA’s New Horizons mission.

Overnight on June 2-3, about two-dozen members of the New Horizons team and other observers in Argentina and South Africa were hoping to capture the fleeting starlit shadow of 2014 MU69, which the New Horizons spacecraft will explore in a flyby on New Year’s Day 2019.

“The stars aligned for this observing campaign, which was implemented expertly by the team,” said New Horizons Program Executive Adriana Ocampo at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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“It’s amazing how classical astronomy – from small telescopes to some of the most advanced observatories on Earth — is helping New Horizons plan its next flyby, and it shows how truly global space exploration is.”

All 54 telescope teams collected data, reported mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern, adding that team scientists started digging into that data when they returned home last week.

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