Wesley Fraser, planetary scientist and astronomer with the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Saanich, will discuss the latest observations made by the New Horizons spacecraft on its flight through the Kuiper Belt at the January meeting of the Nanaimo Astronomy Society. Photo submitted

Nanaimo Astronomy Society will look at the latest from the Kuiper Belt

Wesley Fraser, astronomer and planetary scientist, presents discoveries by New Horizons spacecraft

Nanaimo Astronomy Society’s first meeting of 2019 focuses on new horizons in space exploration.

Featured guest speaker Wesley Fraser, astronomer and planetary scientist with the Dominion Observatory in Saanich, will present some of the latest discoveries made by the New Horizons spacecraft, which is making its way through the Kuiper Belt where it did a fly by of 2014 MU69, also known at Ultima Thule, an icy object about 32 kilometres wide that appears to have formed from the joining of two objects that once orbited one another.

The New Horizons spacecraft, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in January 2006, has travelled 13 years to the outer reaches of the solar system to make the first close-up observations of an icy object in its breeding ground, according to a press release from the Nanaimo Astronomy Society containing an abstract of Fraser’s work and details of his upcoming presentation.

“In this presentation I will provide the modern view of the outer solar system and the objects found there,” Fraser said in the release. “This presentation will involve reference to running telescope programs, like my Colours of the Outer Solar System Origins Survey and the exciting results from the New Horizons.”

Fraser went on to say he will lay out the best current picture of the life of an icy body, how and from what the objects formed and how they came to be located in the Kuiper Belt.

Fraser was awarded his PhD in 2008 and is the principal investigator for a variety of telescope projects studying the Kuiper Belt, participating in preparations for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope and actively hunting for the theoretical Planet 9, which might exist at the outer edge of the solar system. Fraser has recently moved back to Victoria from a lectureship at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, and is continuing his at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and at the California Institute of Technology.

There will also be a short presentation by society member Art Charbonneau, ‘Are We Alone? The search for alien life.’

Also, weather permitting, Nanaimo Astronomy Society will celebrate the total lunar eclipse happening Sunday, Jan. 20, with a public viewing.

Nanaimo Astronomy Society’s January meeting happens Jan. 24 at Beban Park social centre, Room 2, at 7 p.m.

To learn more about the society, upcoming presentations and details of the public viewing of the lunar eclipse, visit www.nanaimoastronomy.com.

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