James Webb Space Telescope will study icy objects in the mysterious ‘graveyard of the solar system’

Pluto may no longer be a planet, but the dwarf planet and its icy neighbors in the Kuiper Belt are about to enter the spotlight.

One of the James Webb Space Telescope‘s first missions this year will be a program to study Pluto and some of the thousands of other celestial objects in the Kuiper Belt, a region of our solar system beyond the orbit of Neptune. These bodies, known as Kuiper Belt objects or trans-Neptunian objects, show remarkable diversity in terms of color, shape, size, groupings (clusters, pairs, etc.), and geological and atmospheric activity. While several spacecraft, including NASA’s New Horizons mission, have flown past these bodies, they’ve only been able to observe them briefly. With Webb’s sensitive infrared cameras, scientists will be able to study the objects over a longer period.