New Horizons Probe Flies By Distant Asteroid Ultima Thule

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"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". At the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which built and operates the spacecraft, scientists will count down to the moment of New Horizons' closest approach, at 12:33 a.m. He's particularly interested in stereo imaging for this leg of the mission.

NELL GREENFIELDBOYCE, BYLINE: The New Horizons probe is about the size of a grand piano.

Ultima Thule measures approximately 30 km in diameter, and is irregularly shaped. The object is so old and pristine that it's essentially like going back in time to the beginning of our solar system.

As for the "cold, classical" part, Ultima Thule's orbit has a very low "inclination", meaning that it travels around the Sun in roughly the same plane as all the planets (except Pluto), and its orbit is almost circular (unlike Pluto).

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After that flyby, Stern and his colleagues set about searching for a new target in the Kuiper Belt, which extends from the edge of Neptune's orbit out to about 5 billion miles from the sun. This object is pretty small, only about 20 miles across.

However, it will take hours for the spacecraft to communicate its status with Earth and beam back the first images of the unexplored object.

Brian was also present for new Horizon's triumphal Pluto flyby in 2015, and delivered the world's first stereoscopic image of Pluto, from the ground-breaking data that the NH probe delivered. The New Horizons mission was extended in 2016 to visit this Kuiper Belt object. It has been flying through space for more than a dozen years.

The Kuiper Belt object was discovered with the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014.

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Thule was a mythical island on medieval maps, thought to be the most northern point on Earth.

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"At the very least, the nuclear-powered New Horizons will continue to observe objects from afar, as it pushes deeper into the Kuiper Belt".

"Now it is just a matter of time to see the data coming down", said deputy project scientist John Spencer of the Southwest Research Institute.

The crowd ushered in 2019 at midnight, then cheered, blew party horns and jubilantly waved small United States flags again 33 minutes later, the appointed time for New Horizons' closest approach to Ultima Thule.

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.

It is noted that the image from several frames are subjected to processing, can be seen the elongated body, the length of which is approximately two times greater than the width, however, whether a single object or a double system is unclear.

You, me, and the scientists alike won't be in the dark for much longer. Temperatures here are close to absolute zero because the region is so far from the sun.