Monday, June 16, 2014

UPDATED HST To Look For Post Pluto Target

Hey Space Placers!


Here's the first raw Hubble image from our KBO search. We should have our first clean stacks by the end of the day.

Alex Parker HST
That DID NOT take long to get the 1st pic!
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft that is enroute to Pluto was just brought out of hibernation last week and all systems are go for a July 2015 flyby of the last planet of the known solar system (Pluto was a main planet when New Horizons was launched on 2006 - it is now classified as a dwarf planet. It was also the only planet not visited by a spacecraft).

Pluto Flyby of KBO
Because it takes so long to get out to Pluto and budgets are tight for new planetary missions, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Time Allocation Committee has decided to conduct a test to see if it is feasible to find a post-Pluto flyby target in an area of the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt. Kuiper Belt Objects, or KBO's, abound in the outer solar system and have never been seen up close.

New Horizons provides the perfect opportunity for a flyby of a KBO and would allow us to learn much about these enigmatic remnants left over from the formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago. But in order to accomplish this a KBO target must be found that would permit New Horizons to flyby - and this is no easy feat.

The first step in this post Pluto goal is for HST to look at a section of the sky in Sagittarius. HST will try to find KBOs and if at least two are found in the search area, the Committee will allocate more time for HST to look for a New Horizons KBO target.

This search is no easy task as HST will be literally looking for a dark needle in the proverbial solar system haystack during its search. KBOs are very dim and very dark. A KBO will be spotted in the photographic exposures made by HST and will reveal itself as a stationary pinpoint against the background stars that will be slewed.

Observing time on HST is very precious and astronomers worldwide compete for time. Having HST devoted to this search shows the commitment to solar system research by the Committee.

Here's to good hunting HST! Read More About It here.

Sky Guy in VA

No comments:

Post a Comment