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Space & Astronomy

New Horizons set for epic flyby of Ultima Thule

By T.K. Randall
December 29, 2018 · Comment icon 31 comments

What will New Horizons discover at Ultima Thule ? Image Credit: NASA
Following on from its historic flyby of Pluto in 2015, the probe will reach its next destination on New Year's Day.
With a mass approximately 10,000 times that of the comet visited by ESA's Rosetta spacecraft, MU69 (or Ultima Thule) is around 30 miles in diameter and orbits the Sun once every 295 years.

Situated at a distance of around 1 billion miles beyond Pluto, this distant, icy world will be brought in to sharp focus for the first time when New Horizons makes its closest approach within the next 3 days.

"It's electric, across the whole team," said mission principal investigator Alan Stern.

"The people are ready. We can't wait to go exploring."
What New Horizons will find at Ultima Thule remains unclear, however it is hoped that the data sent back will help to teach us more about the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

All we know right now is that MU69 has a reddish tint and some rather unusual reflective properties.

"We don't have a lot of information on the composition," said mission co-investigator Kelsi Singer. "That's one of the things we're really excited to learn."

If all goes well, the flyby will take place on January 1st at 12:33 a.m. EST.

Source: | Comments (31)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #22 Posted by Seti42 6 years ago
So ****ing cool. I can't wait to see the images! I still say we need to name one of these distant objects Yuggoth, though.  Happy holidays, everyone! And keep exploring!
Comment icon #23 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 6 years ago
No, just old fashioned chemical thrusters.
Comment icon #24 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 6 years ago
Ultima Thule Comes into Focus  
Comment icon #25 Posted by L.A.T.1961 6 years ago
So, with a flat light curve and an elongated shape it would suggest no rotation or rotation only around it's long axis?
Comment icon #26 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 6 years ago
It would suggest rotation around it's long axis with New Horizons flying directly towards on of its poles, however I'm not sure how that ties in with the above image, as that would seem to suggest that New Horizons isn't approaching in the afore mentioned manner. All will become clear in the next few hours.
Comment icon #27 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf 6 years ago
Ion drive is hardly new, it was first proposed as far back as 1906. Nor is "soon to come". NASA, JAXA and ESA have been using them in deep space missions for more than 20 years. Ion drive, whilst capable of higher velocities than chemical rockets, is still not capable of catching 'Oumuamua.
Comment icon #28 Posted by bmk1245 6 years ago
I wonder what's the next target after Ultima.... Just amazing what we've achieved since Wright brothers,
Comment icon #29 Posted by L.A.T.1961 6 years ago
Some information on future options here.   
Comment icon #30 Posted by bmk1245 6 years ago
Comment icon #31 Posted by Tatetopa 6 years ago
Maybe more significant to the future of humanity that most of what we are reading about today.  Thanks Waspie.  Lets keep going.

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