Scientists looking for targets beyond Pluto for NASA's New Horizon's spacecraft to visit will get more time on the Hubble Space Telescope, managers decided after a two-week pilot study revealed at least two candidate objects.
The New Horizons team had spent three fruitless years using ground-based telescopes to find a Kuiper Belt Object that will be within range of New Horizons after its July 14, 2015, flyby of Pluto. Last month, scientists got two weeks of observing time on Hubble for initial scans.
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The deal was that if they found at least two candidates, they could have another 160 orbits worth of telescope time to ferret out a second suitable target for New Horizons.
The spacecraft, which was launched in 2006, is on track to become the first probe to visit the dwarf planet Pluto, located some 4.7 billion miles from Earth in the Kuiper Belt. New Horizons must fire its maneuvering engine by December 2015 to put itself on track for another Kuiper Belt Object flyby, lead scientist Alan Stern told Discovery News.