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June 16, 2014 11:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2014-29

NASA's Hubble to Begin Search Beyond Pluto for a New Horizons Mission Target

June 16, 2014: The Kuiper Belt is the final frontier of our solar system, and also the vastest. Stretching from 3 to 5 billion miles from the Sun, it contains myriad primitive icy bodies left over from the birth of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago. After passing the dwarf planet Pluto in July 2015, NASA's New Horizons space probe will hurtle deep into the Kuiper Belt at nearly 35,000 miles per hour. The Hubble Space Telescope is being used to search for a suitable Kuiper Belt object that New Horizons could pay a visit to. It would be our first and perhaps last look at such a remote relic from the distant past. The search is very challenging even for Hubble's sharp vision. It has to find something the size of Manhattan Island, as black as charcoal, and embedded against a snowstorm of background stars.

This artist's rendering shows the New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Kuiper Belt object.

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Artwork Credit: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute (JHUAPL/SwRI)

Science Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI