From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Arrokoth and other Kupier Belt objects
Mains level : New Horizons mission
The most distant space object ever seen up close has been recently named as ‘Arrokoth’.
(Note: It was earlier nicknamed as Ultima Thule)
- The International Astronomical Union and Minor Planets Center, the global body for naming Kuiper Belt objects have given this name.
- It was discovered in 2014 with the Hubble Space Telescope, which is operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
- Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by the snowman figured ice mass in December 2018, some 1.6 billion kilometres beyond Pluto.
- The New Horizons team of NASA proposed the name to the International Astronomical Union and Minor Planets Center.
- For the New Horizons team it took some months to finalise this name. In the language of the Powhatan tribe, Arrokoth means “sky”.
- The team got the approval from the elders of the Powhatan tribe to assign it to their new found “baby”.
About New Horizons mission
- NASA launched the New Horizons mission in January 2006.
- After crossing by Pluto in 2015, in 2019 it flew by Arrokoth. This remains the “farthest flyby ever conducted.”
- The Kuiper Belt is a disk-shaped region found in the outer solar system, past the orbit of Neptune.
- It is known as the third zone of the solar system, after the zone hosting the gas planets in our solar system.
- It contains hundreds of millions of small icy bodies that are thought to be left over material from the formation of the outer planets.
- At least three dwarf planets are located in the Kuiper belt: Pluto, Haumea and Makemake.
- Also, some of the solar system’s moons are thought to have originated there, such as Neptune’s Triton and Saturn’s Phoebe.