Two years ago, NASA’s New Horizons revolutionized our appreciation of Pluto and its moons. The little probe is still functioning and speeding out of the solar system into interstellar space at 10 miles a second. But before it fades into the cosmic night forever, it will reconnoiter an enigmatic Kuiper Belt Object called 2014 MU69. Recent observations suggest the object will be a two-for-one deal:
MU69 appears to be either a binary orbiting pair or a contact (stuck together) pair of nearly like-sized bodies with diameters near 20 and 18 kilometers (12 and 11 miles). This means we are very likely going to a primordial binary in the Kuiper Belt, a 4-billion-year-old relic of solar system formation and an exotic building block of the small planets of the Kuiper Belt like Pluto, Ixion, Makemake, Sedna and Eris.
The KBO could be a contact binary as shown in the image above, it could consist of two distinct objects in close orbit around each other. We’ll know for sure when Hew Horizons passes within a few thousands miles on Jan 1, 2019.
- Online retailers have pages of eclipse viewing glasses and other gizmos. But buyer beware: apparently, at least according to some reports, “fake” eclipse glasses really are a thing. To add to the confusion, “fake” could just mean they’re not certified by an official astronomy source, or it could mean they’re total crap that could cause permanent eye damage.
- Driverless car or human driver camouflaged as front seat?
- Click here for really big dinosaurs.
- The volatile digital dough called bitcoin hit a new high last week. New types of so-called crypto-currencies are coming out all the time these days, in what analysts call an “Initial Coin Offering,” some intended to address problems with bitcoin:
To be a genuinely useful, practical new currency, a given kind of money has to be reasonably widely accepted, as reputable as possible, and ideally, relatively stable — big swings are great for speculators willing to make bets and shoulder risk … but lousy for run-of-the-mill vendors and service providers who simply want to get paid in full and on time with minimum hassle.