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This is your closest look yet at a Kuiper Belt object

NASA's New Horizons probe spotted an object 3.3 billion miles away from the Sun.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
December 6, 2015
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That moving dot you see in the picture above may not seem like much at first glance, but it's a pretty big deal -- it's humanity's closest-ever look at an object in the Solar System's distant Kuiper Belt. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft recently caught 1994 JR1 on camera from "just" 170 million miles away, or 15 times closer than any Kuiper Belt object has been seen before. That's no mean feat when the celestial body is a whopping 3.3 billion miles away from the Sun, putting it beyond Pluto's current position and into the realm of even tinier dwarf planets like Haumea and Makemake.

The best part? The New Horizons team will have more views like this if it gets approval for its mission extension. The next big flyby won't be until New Year's Day 2019, when the ship swings by 2014 MU69, but it won't be surprising if there's more to see before then.

[Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI]

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