Published: Mon, December 31, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

NASA's New Horizons will ring within the New 12 months with flyby

NASA's New Horizons will ring within the New 12 months with flyby

Yet on New Year's Day, it will meet another object on the edge of the Solar System - a rock nicknamed Ultima Thule, located 1 billion miles beyond Pluto, the Verge reported. This is the region of space beyond the orbit of Neptune comprised of numerous small frozen objects - thought to be leftover remnants from the birth of the Solar System 4.5 billion years ago. Even comets, which can form farther out than Ultima Thule, are warmed by repeated passes by the Sun and may have "significantly evolved from their primordial state", said Stern.

New Horizons will fly three times closer to Ultima than it did by Pluto, coming within 2,200 miles of it and providing a better look at the surface.

The photos should be back on Earth by late evening on January 1.

"I'm a bit nervous, but I feel confident ... all the stars are aligned".

The team reached its goal when the vehicle successfully flew by the dwarf planet on July 14, 2015, and sent back data "that resulted in profound new insights about Pluto and its moons, " according to the space agency's website.

The Museum's Planetary Geologists, Larry Crumpler and Jayne Aubele, will be at a table to answer questions about Pluto, Kuiper Belt Objects, or anything else orbiting our sun.

NASA launched the spacecraft in 2006; it's about the size of a baby grand piano. It will zoom within about 3541 kilometres of Ultima Thule, its seven science instruments going full blast.

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Pelletier compared it to a motorist inside a vehicle who is trying to look at a lamp post.

A camera on board the New Horizons spacecraft is now zooming in on Ultima Thule, so scientists can get a better sense of its shape and configuration - whether it is one object or several. "We can't wait to go exploring". "There's also the possibility that it will be a binary asteroid - two objects touching each other or in close formation". It will take about 10 hours to get confirmation that the spacecraft completed - and survived - the encounter.

"So when we plan manoeuvres to do uplinks and updates, we need to take that into account, " Pelletier noted. The mission is being hosted by Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physical Laboratory in Laurel, Md., where Pelletier and his team are working.

Ultima Thule that was discovered by the Hubble Telescope while the researchers were contemplating the Kuiper belt is more likely to be demystified by the scientists as the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORI) will take hundreds of snaps. Studying its properties could help scientists understand the earliest stages of our solar system.

"I'm an explorer, " Pelletier said. I call this Ultima's first puzzle - why does it have such a tiny light curve that we can't even detect it?

The Voyager spacecraft made their way above and below the Kuiper Belt in the 1990s, but were "blissfully unaware" of its existence.

Special cameras created to shoot in low-light at high speeds, along with spectrometers and other instruments - some designed and built in San Antonio - will capture information about Ultima Thule's actual shape, and whether or not it has rings, a moon or an atmosphere.

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