New Horizons: Nasa probe survives flyby of Ultima Thule

New Horizons: Nasa probe survives flyby of Ultima Thule

Thule fly-by New Years Eve Party Even though the actual fly-by of Ultima Thule will occur a bit after midnight, on January 1, there will be a New Year's Eve party at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

New Horizons is on track to reach its closest point to Ultima Thule - 2,200 miles - in a flyby at a speed of about 31,500 mph at 12:33 a.m. EST on New Year's Day.

What will it look like?: According to The Verge, New Horizons "will be as far away from the object as NY is from Los Angeles".

"It sounds like science fiction, but it's not", Alan Stern, the lead planetary scientist on the New Horizons mission, wrote in The New York Times on Monday. So they have to wait until late morning (in the US) before learning whether the spacecraft survived.

In July of 2015, after travelling for over nine years in space, the New Horizons probe made history, by giving us our very first close-up look at Pluto and its moons.

Ultima Thule was first spotted in 2014, despite New Horizons being launched in 2006.

Ultima Thule measures approximately 30 km in diameter, and is irregularly shaped. Other instruments monitored the solar wind, energetic particles and dust concentrations in Ultima's vicinity.

Now six decades later, the guitar legend turned astrophysicist has released an arena rock song composed for both the farthest away object humanity has ever visited - Ultima Thule - and the spacecraft sent to scour this distant world, NASA's New Horizons probe.


An artist's impression of the New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Kuiper Belt Object as part of a potential extended mission after the Pluto flyby.

May, who has a doctorate in astrophysics, and is a New Horizons science collaborator, will be present at the New Horizons Maryland, Washington County, base of operations on New Year's Day to witness the historic final approach as it happens. "Thinking about the scale and magnitude of the exploration we're conducting, and I would say people are close to climbing the walls with anticipation". A processed version of the raw photo shows the object as an elongated blob.

Although the image provided a new look at Ultima Thule, it lacks detail. Those findings should include a processed version of six-pixel imagery that shows Ultima's shape more definitively. By the time the first images and data stream back to Earth, the borders of the known world will have expand once more.

'An even more weird scenario is one in which Ultima is surrounded by many tiny tumbling moons, ' said University of Virginia's Anne Verbiscer, a New Horizons assistant project scientist. Because APL manages the mission on NASA's behalf, the partial government shutdown hasn't had a major impact on operations.

NASA will be ringing in 2019 with an historical flyby to explore the unknown.

"For me, that's why I'm here", he told the crowd at APL.

"We're rendezvousing with something that's a mountain draped in black velvet in nearly pitch dark conditions and we're screaming up to it ... within 2 seconds of perfection", Stern said.

Scientist at the American space agency confirmed New Horizons was in a "healthy" condition after passing the icy space rock some hours ago.

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