The inexplicable Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 now lives more than just a generic-akin blob. NASA has published its clearest-ever pictures of the object, snapped a relatively nearby 4,109 Miles away last month. While researchers already knew some info about MU69 before now, such as its odd 2-part ‘pancake’ shape, these higher-res pictures display details that just were not noticeable earlier. You will find deep pits and round pieces of terrain visible toward the top along with other details that were earlier vague.
The space organization is keen to boast about the feat. New Horizons got nearer to MU69 than it did to Pluto (its major target), thanks to “unparalleled precision” in measurements all over various nations. There was a real opportunity the camera might miss the object completely, as per Alan Stern (mission team Principal Investigator).
You are not going to get enhanced images than this, unluckily. On the other hand, they are sufficiently good that they can offer additional insights around the formation of the object and the type of interactions it has almost 4.1 Billion Miles from our planet.
On a related note, earlier in December, a group of NASA rocket researchers gathered in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard—a distant archipelago situated off Norway’s northern coast. This took place at the northernmost rocket range in the world, controlled by Andøya Space Center in Norway.
For a timeframe of a month, Ny-Ålesund sheltered the rocket group behind VISIONS-2 (Visualizing Ion Outflow via Neutral Atom Sensing-2) mission by NASA. They settled to this extreme place for an up-close glance at atmospheric break out, the procedure whereby Earth is slowly leaking its air into outer space. Knowing the atmospheric escape on Earth has uses all over the Universe (from forecasting which remote planets may be habitable, to understanding how Mars became the exposed & desolate planet it is today). The mission was spearheaded by Doug Rowland of Goddard Space Flight Center by NASA Maryland.