Nasa probe extends horizons of mankind with fly-by of Ultima Thule

New Horizons MU69 flyby

The object is 20 miles long by 10 miles wide.

Mission scientists from NASA and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory have confirmed that the New Horizons spacecraft conducted a flyby of Ultima Thule, a Kuiper Belt object that's a billion miles beyond Pluto.

The observations should help scientists ascertain how deep-freeze objects like Ultima Thule formed, along with the rest of the solar system, 4.5 billion years ago. These objects are remnants of the early Solar System, and, as such, studying them could reveal new insights into its formation.

New Horizons is moving faster than 48,280km an hour, meaning that its zip past the unusual object really needed to be pulled off without even the slightest interference. It was hardly a foregone conclusion that the probe would even be able to transmit: With a cruising speed of 14.4 kilometres per second, a collision with the smallest of pebbles would destroy it.

"Congratulations to NASA's New Horizons team, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the Southwest Research Institute for making history yet again".

The New Horizons probe was slated to reach the "third zone" in the uncharted heart of the Kuiper Belt at 12:33 a.m. this morning ET - but NASA did not receive confirmation it was a success until 10:31am.

Fans will have to wait for more scientific data and a close-up image of Ultima Thule, which isn't expected to be released until 9 p.m. EST tonight.

The feat has been compared to photographing a flower by the side of the road from the window of a speeding auto at night.

Real-time video of the actual flyby was impossible, since it takes more than six hours for a signal sent from Earth to reach the spaceship, and another six hours for the response to arrive. So they won't know until late morning whether the spacecraft survived.

New Horizons rocketed from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2006. However, this still won't be the end of its mission, as NASA hopes that it will continue to explore the distant Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt until at least 2021. Ultima Thule was discovered in 2014.

On Twitter, Nasa fans had a few other ideas about what Thule looks like.

"It's really a puzzle", said Stern in a statement last week.

Scientists say there are two possibilities for this: Ultima Thule is either one object with two connected lobes, sort of like a spinning bowling pin or peanut still in the shell, or two objects orbiting surprisingly close to one another. It was also used to create the star catalog that calibrated Hubble images of the object, CFHT representatives say, which has allowed for New Horizons to change its course correctly in order to observe Ultima Thule.

"Ultima Thule is finally revealing its secrets to us", said project scientist Hal Weaver of Johns Hopkins.

Ultima Thule is named for a mythical, far-northern island in medieval literature and cartography, according to NASA. "Think of it. We're a billion miles farther than Pluto". "We are going to begin writing our first paper next week". "This thing is going to look cool".

An image of Thule, sent overnight and barely more detailed than previous images, deepens the mystery of whether Thule is a single rock shaped like an asymmetrical peanut or actually two rocks orbiting each other, "blurred together due to their proximity", Stern said.

"We have a healthy spacecraft", mission operations manager Alice Bowman announced.

Since temperatures this far from the Sun are barely above absolute zero - mummifying temperatures that preserves Kuiper Belt objects - they are essentially time capsules of the ancient past, the U.S. space agency said.

Related news:

Hot News

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Donald Trump pleased Europeans are unhappy with him
Jan 03, 2019 - 06:29
The president wrote he would rather Romney "focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful". Romney said he will support Trump policies that he believes are "in the best interests of the country and my state".

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top China’s Xi Jinping Says Taiwan Must Be Unified With Mainland
Jan 03, 2019 - 05:18
Yesterday, Tsai warned Beijing that Taiwan's people would never give up the kind of freedoms unseen on the authoritarian mainland. It's unclear how his message will be received by the 23 million people on the other side of the Taiwan Strait .

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Minivan Slams Into New Year's Revelers In Tokyo, Injuring 8 People
Jan 01, 2019 - 19:42
A police spokesman said the driver had been detained but has not given out any further details on the identity of the suspect. A 21-year-old suspect, named as Kazuhiro Kusakabe, was arrested and being questioned, Tokyo Metropolitan Police said.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Clemson, Alabama ‘mirror images of each other’ entering title game, Dabo says
Jan 01, 2019 - 19:02
The teams were ranked first and second to begin the season, and Saban said he isn't surprised the two are playing for the title. "I think both teams are kind of mirror images of each other, to be honest with you", Swinney said.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Why Kante is growing into his new role with Chelsea
Jan 01, 2019 - 17:00
Striker Olivier Giroud became the Blues' latest casualty, hobbling out of the 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace in the Premier League on Sunday (Dec 30) and leaving Selhurst Park on crutches.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top New Horizons Spacecraft Closing In On Ultima Thule
Jan 01, 2019 - 16:44
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding Ultima Thule is whether or not it's made up of one object or two very close together. Data from watching this KBO pass in front of known background stars suggests that this is the likely shape of Ultima Thule .

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Pirlo: Ramsey would be great for Juventus
Jan 01, 2019 - 16:17
Juventus are reportedly in pole position to sign Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey , despite Paris Saint-Germain's advances.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Samsung Galaxy S10: Production Started?
Jan 01, 2019 - 15:40
Budget Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite, which will compete with Apple iPhone XR , today appeared in a silicone case for the new renderer. This A series phone from Samsung is said to come in two variants - 4GB RAM/64GB storage and 4GB RAM/128GB storage.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Twitter Reacts To Floyd Mayweather's Quick Finish Of Tenshin Nasukawa
Dec 31, 2018 - 20:54
The Mayweather-Nasukawa bout culminated an evening of more than a dozen fights, streamed by FITE for a fee, but not in the U.S. For now, we only can take Mayweather at his word that he'll stay retired and his 50-0 record will remain etched in history.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top LeBron James' consecutive games streak ends at 156
Dec 31, 2018 - 20:19
Sacramento swingman Bogdan Bogdanović then broke the hearts of Laker Nation when he hit a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer. While Tyson Chandler is now battling a sore back, Zubac had a strong run before cooling off Thursday against the Kings .

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Brother of Slain CA Officer Reacts After Police Arrest the Murderer
Dec 31, 2018 - 20:01
Trump's demand that Congress approve $5 billion for a US southern border wall has led to a partial government shutdown. When a gunfight broke out, Singh tried to defend himself but apparently did not hit the suspect, Christianson said.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Germany: Drugged car driver tries to follow plane at airport
Dec 31, 2018 - 17:42
The driver could have been on drugs as the incident unfolded, NDR said, adding that the quick on-site drug test was " positive ". The man had tried to follow a plane operated by Greek airline Aegean, which was landing after a flight from Athens.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Russian Federation : 4 dead in apartment collapse, apparent gas explosion
Dec 31, 2018 - 17:26
The explosion shattered windows of nearby buildings, according to a local resident speaking on Echo of Moscow radio. In 2015, at least five people were killed when a gas blast damaged an apartment building in the city of Volgograd.

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Dipika Kakar Wins ‘Bigg Boss 12’ and Takes Home Rs 50 Lakhs
Dec 31, 2018 - 14:56
While talking about her journey, Dipika said it was full of high and low moments, which she would like to cherish forever. She said he helped her in improving her mistakes throughout the show."Salman sir is one of the kindest person".

isis-killer-beheading-video-story-top Eden Hazard replies when asked if he’ll extend his Chelsea FC contract
Dec 29, 2018 - 17:03
Belgium star Hazard again underlined his importance to Chelsea , racking up a league-high direct involvement in 19 goals for the Blues so far this term.