PerspectivePlanetary Science

A deep dive into the abyss

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Science  28 Feb 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6481, pp. 980-981
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba6889

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Summary

Since 1992, astronomers have unveiled a vast population of solid bodies in orbit beyond Neptune. Known as the Kuiper Belt, this region of the Solar System is a dynamical fossil preserving a record of the planet-formation epoch (1). The belt is also a repository of the Solar System's most primordial material and the long-sought nursery from which most short-period comets originate. Most of what we know about the belt was determined using ground-based telescopes, and studies were limited to objects larger than about 100 km because the smaller ones are too faint to easily detect. Now, 5 years after its flyby of the 2000-km-diameter Kuiper Belt object Pluto (2), NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has provided the first close-up look at a small, cold classical Kuiper Belt object. On pages 998, 999, and 1000 of this issue, Spencer et al. (3), Grundy et al. (4), and McKinnon et al. (5) show one of these objects to be lightly cratered, ultrared, and binary, respectively.

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