All Images: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
Pluto may be long gone, but NASA s New Horizons spacecraft is by no means finished with the outer solar system.
For the second time, New Horizons has observed 1994 JR1, a 90-mile wide Kuiper Belt Object KBO that orbits over 3 billion miles from the sun.
Here was JR1 back in November:
And here it is last month, from a distance of just 69 million miles:
The latest observations allowed the New Horizons science team to start fleshing out a portrait of the lonely space rock.
We can now pinpoint the location of JR1 to within 600 miles, giving us our most precise KBO orbit to date.
Indeed, these are our first tantalizing glimpses of a mysterious realm whose existence astronomers only learned of a few decades ago.
You can think of the Kuiper Belt as a vast cryobank, filled with primordial chunks of rock that have not been touched or transformed since the birth of the solar system.