NASA Tracking Flyby Of Most Distant Space Expedition In Human History

01 January, 2019, 18:17 | Author: Kenneth Collins
  • The spacecraft captured stunning images of Pluto when it flew by the dwarf planet in 2015

From its brightness and size, New Horizons team members calculated its reflectivity, which is only about 10%, or about as dark as garden dirt.

"This mission represents to me the spirit of adventure, discovery and inquiry which is inherent in the human spirit", May said during the countdown to the flyby.

Media captionWhere is Ultima Thule?

What's happening: NASA will be sending its New Horizons probe past a space rock, called Ultima Thule, that's never been seen before, NBC News reports.

Now it hopes to solve the mystery surrounding Ultima Thule, which is believed to be a binary system but could be something much stranger.

Possible twins: According to The Associated Press, the Ultima Thule object could be two objects orbiting close together.

"From Ultima Thule's orbit, we know that it is the most primordial object ever explored", said Dr. Cathy Olkin, New Horizons deputy project scientist at Southwest Research Institute.

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New Horizons, which is the size of a baby grand piano and part of an $800 million mission, was expected to hurtle to within 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) of Ultima Thule, considerably closer than the Pluto encounter of 2015. The space rock features a diameter of roughly 19 miles. Detailed images won't be available immediately, as it takes around six hours for the data to arrive back on Earth.

After being launched, the New Horizons probe got a huge gravity boost when it passed Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, in February 2007. "No one has ever seen a Kuiper Belt object as anything but a point of light". The mission was launched in 2006 and took a 9½-year journey through space before reaching Pluto.

'An even more freaky 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. The object was subsequently designated 2014 MU69, given the minor planet number 485968.

Scientists think the clarity of the images captured during the Ultima Thule flyby could rival the photographs taken during New Horizon's close encounter with Pluto. It will become the most distant world ever explored by humankind.

There are several ways to track this exciting New Horizons event. "We hardly know anything about it", says Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, at APL. The flyby Ultima Thule can be watched on NASA TV YouTube channel, where there'll be a discussion about the flyby and the live stream of the signal captured by NASA. And now it's about to get a look at a mysterious object known as a minor planet, one of thousands in the outer reaches of the solar system. The Kuiper Belt is too far away, and way too cold to encourage the formation of any planets, leaving all its fragments frozen in time for billions of years. It was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope and added to New Horizons' itinerary.

During the convergence of scientific instruments and cameras should show how many in reality of bodies is the object, does he have a companion, or dust ring, to tell about the geological features, topography and composition of the surface and have the gas of the coma. For example, the mission team still can not tell whether Ultima is a single or binary object. And then you travel about a billion miles more.

'Ultima was formed in the middle of the Kuiper Belt, where temperatures are close to absolute zero, ' Stern wrote.

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