Arrokoth is in the Kuiper Belt and was studied in a close fly-by by the New Horizons spacecraft.

It was discovered by mobile telescopes in Argentina, which saw this series of photos. This is several photos each 0.2 seconds apart shown on a loop.

When the star goes dark that means something has moved in front of it. They called this new thing Kuiper Belt Object 2014MU69.

Images credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Arrokoth with New Horizons spacecraft (artist’s impression)

Images credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

At first, scientists didn’t know if it was two separate objects orbiting each other, or one object.

They couldn’t see clearly from Earth because it’s beyond the orbit of Pluto and very small.


Images credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Roman Tkachenko

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was made to alter its course slightly to fly closer past 2014MU69 to get a better look at it.

New Horizons mission original course.

Visit the New Horizons mission website.

In 2017, New Horizons was instructed to change course to pass by Arrokoth.

Image credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

From the close up photographs, taken on New Year’s Day 2019, the mission astronomers were able to build this animation of what the object looks like. They then renamed it Arrokoth, to recognise the Algonquin people of the Chesapeake region in Maryland, where Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory is located.

3D image credit: NASA Visualization Technology Applications and Development (VTAD)

Four frame GIF showing a white dot moving across a background of stars. This is how NASA discovered the Kuiper Belt Object Quaoar Image credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Another Kuiper Belt Object was discovered in July 2017 by the New Horizons mission.

This time it was a direct observation of the object moving across the background of stars. They named it Quaoar (you say it as “Kwa-war”).

Image credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI


Kuiper Belt junk modelling. For this activity, you will be recycling some old junk. Find some bits of rubbish or recycling, and ask if you can use them to make some models. You could collect old card, paper, polystyrene, tennis balls, plastic bags, whatever you can find.

Your task is to build various models of objects in the Kuiper Belt. Start with Arrokoth, and maybe Quaoar. Then imagine your own objects that are yet to be discovered and build models of them using the bits of junk you collected. You can use bits and pieces with the right colours, or colour them yourself.

Gravity makes larger objects like planets close to spherical (perfectly round). Smaller objects don’t have to be round. Arrokoth shows that you could make up new ones of any shape. For each of your objects, make a little name sign to show what it is called.

Picture of several objects from the Kuiper Belt, like Pluto and Sedna. With Earth for a size comparison.
Image credit: NASA

You can go to the previous DeepSpace secret pages by clicking the places below.

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These delicate wisps of gas make up an object known as SNR B0519-69.0, or SNR 0519 for short. The thin, blood-red shells are actually the remnants from when an unstable progenitor star exploded violently as a supernova around 600 years ago. There are several types of supernova, but for SNR 0519 the star that exploded is known to have been a white dwarf star — a Sun-like star in the final stages of its life. SNR 0519 is located over 150 000 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Dorado (The Dolphinfish), a constellation that also contains most of our neighbouring galaxy the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Because of this, this region of the sky is full of intriguing and beautiful deep sky objects. The LMC orbits the Milky Way galaxy as a satellite and is the fourth largest in our group of galaxies, the Local Group. SNR 0519 is not alone in the LMC; the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope also came across a similar bauble a few years ago in SNR B0509-67.5, a supernova of the same type as SNR 0519 with a strikingly similar appearance. A version of this image was submitted to the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures Image Processing Competition by Claude Cornen, and won sixth prize.
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