After taking some fantastic pictures of Pluto last year, New Horizons is on its way to a new target in the Kuiper Belt, but while it is on its way, the spacecraft just snapped pictures of another object, 50000 Quaoar.
Quaoar was originally discovered in 2002
According to NASA, the object is about half the size of Pluto at 690 miles in diameter and is currently around 4 billion miles from the Sun. New Horizons spied it at a distance of 1.3 billion miles away on July 13th and 14th.
New Horizons isn’t likely to get any closer to Quaoar, but the images that it has sent back to Earth will be useful to astronomers. By comparing the images taken from the spacecraft and from Earth, they will be able to learn new things about the object’s surface.
Originally discovered in 2002, Quaoar was named for the creator god of the Tongva tribe that originated in the Los Angeles area. Astronomers believe that it’s a dwarf planet, and in 2007, discovered that it is orbited by a single, tiny moon, Weywot.
New Horizons is continuing on to study its next target, an object called 2014 MU69, and is expected to fly by in January 2019.