NASA spacecraft begins its hunt for new moon in solar system

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Image source: NASA
Image source: NASA

New Delhi : In the recent development, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has started its journey to hunt for moons in the solar system's most distant edge, looking for hints on creation of our solar system. Recently, the spacecraft has studied a space rock situated some 4 billion miles away from Earth.

Scientists confirms that the spacecraft is as small as a piano and is travelling deep into the ring of celestial bodies known as the Kuiper Belt looking for small, icy moons that spun off the snowman-shaped Ultima Thule formation, a pair of icy space rocks that fused in orbit billions of years ago.

"If we've seen bodies one and two, the question is what about bodies three, four and five?" Mark Showalter, a New Horizons investigator, said during a news conference at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.

NASA's New Horizon spacecraft on the first day of the year 2019, came within 2,200 miles (3,500 km) of Ultima Thule, which represents a pristine time capsule dating to the birth of the solar system. The fly-by marked the farthest close encounter of an object within our solar system.

Since then, the spacecraft has sent images revealing Ultima Thule to be a "contact binary" two bodies that formed separately and then got stuck together. Scientists assume that the conjoined bodies, one named Ultima and the other Thule were once part of a cloud of smaller, rotating space rocks that gradually bound together into two larger bodies orbiting at a much slower speed.

"We're looking for the objects that put the brakes on these objects," Showalter said. Finding the moons, which would orbit Ultima Thule up to 500 miles (800 km) from its surface, would also reveal details about the space rock's mass and density.

The spacecraft which is located 3 million miles beyond Ultima Thule which will send back more informative images and data in the coming weeks, NASA said.