New Horizons space probe heading to Kuiper Belt object in post-Pluto mission

After three billion miles and nine years in space, NASA’s New Horizons space probe arrived at Pluto earlier this year and captured stunning images of the most distant planet in our solar system. An astronomer’s dream, these images provided NASA with the closest and most detailed look at Pluto they have ever seen. Last week, NASA compiled the best of these images in a motion video that showcases the probe’s approach, pass-by, and departure from Pluto. But as the agency continues to analyze the Pluto data, it’s also planning the probe’s next fly-by destination, an object named 2014 MU69 in the Kuiper belt that’s almost a billion miles away from Pluto.

NASA hopes to use this next mission to study the composition and other properties of objects that are positioned at the outer edge of the solar system. Astronomers are interested in these Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) because they are the building blocks of Belt planets such as Pluto. This particular object was chosen for the mission due to its size and location. It’s small enough that it has not been modified by geologic processes and is far enough away from the sun’s influence that it likely has maintained its original composition. It also can be reached easily by the New Horizons spacecraft with minimal fuel consumption.

Object 2014 MU69 is thought to be approximately 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) wide, but it could be as large as 45 kilometers (28 miles). It is larger than most comets, but smaller than planets like Pluto, making it an ideal size for further investigation. Just as it did with Pluto, scientists hope to use the high resolution fly-by photos to gain a deeper understanding of the Kuiper Belt and KBOs when the probe makes its pass-by.

Now that a destination has been chosen, NASA has to approve the New Horizons’ project in a proposal that is expected to succeed. Once approved, the probe will start burning fuel later this year as it begins to navigate deeper into the Kuiper belt. It is scheduled to reach object 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019, and continue on its journey beyond our solar system. It will maintain its course away from Earth until it runs out of power sometime in the 2030s.

Emerging Tech

Here’s how the InSight mission to Mars will confirm its landing to NASA

NASA's InSight mission has sent a lander to Mars. NASA researchers have now shared details on how they will monitor the touching down of the lander at the end of its 91 million mile journey.

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.

These are the best Xbox One games available right now

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From 'Cuphead' to 'Halo 5,' the best Xbox One games offer something for everyone.

Feeling nostalgic? Here are the 25 best Sega Genesis games

Although the company has since fallen into obscurity, Sega was an indisputable titan throughout the '90s. That said, here are 25 best Sega Genesis games that helped define its fabled decade.
Emerging Tech

DJI Mavic 2 Pro vs Mavic 2 Zoom: What’s the real difference?

DJI's Mavic 2 series drones are ready to fly -- but which one is right for you? The Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are nearly identical save for their cameras. Here's what you need to know about these powerful new UAVs.
Emerging Tech

This startup will sequence your entire genome for free — but there’s a catch

Want to get your DNA sequenced but don’t want to shell out the hundred bucks or so to do so? A new startup called Nebula Genomics offers you the opportunity to have it done for free.
Emerging Tech

Students who designed transforming smart home will compete in Solar Decathalon

Modular smart homes are all the rage, and now some students from Virginia Tech are putting their money on their FutureHAUS, a modular, solar-powered, transforming smart home they're taking to the Solar Decathlon in Dubai.
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best tech gear and gadgetry that survived Shark Tank

The television show "Shark Tank" has churned out quite a few strange, interesting, and downright awesome products -- so we rounded up some of the best ones for your perusal. Enjoy!
Emerging Tech

Hotter than the sun: Chinese fusion reactor claims breakthrough

China’s “artificial sun” has reached a temperature of 180 million ºF with a heating power of 10 megawatts -- six times hotter than the center of the sun. The achievement could mark progress towards fusion as a clean energy source.
Emerging Tech

Hope it doesn’t melt! Rocket to ISS carries vital supplies — including ice cream

A rocket has launched over Virginia's eastern shore, carrying supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). Inside the spacecraft are supplies for the ISS itself and the crew onboard, such as scientific equipment and food.
Emerging Tech

‘Super-Earth’ discovered orbiting nearby star

Astronomers have discovered a large planet circling a sun nearby to Earth called Barnard's Star. The potential new planet is thought to be cold and icy and has a size of around 3.2 times the Earth.
Emerging Tech

OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully tests its asteroid-sampling arm

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, launched in September 2016, is closing in on its target of the Bennu asteroid. The craft has now unfurled its robotic arm, called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), and tested it successfully.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!