NASA's New Horizons spacecraft may double its pleasure during its next deep-space flyby 16 months from now.
On Jan. 1, 2019, New Horizons is scheduled to have a close encounter with a body called 2014 MU69, which lies 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto in the distant, frigid Kuiper Belt. (The probe famously zoomed past Pluto in July 2015 , returning the first-ever up-close images of that mysterious world. This second flyby is the key component of New Horizons' extended mission.)
Not much is known about 2014 MU69, so the New Horizons team planned out a campaign to watch the object pass in front of background stars. Such "occultations" can reveal a great deal about the foreground body, including its size and shape. [ Destination Pluto: NASA's New Horizons Mission in Pictures ]