Published: Sun, January 06, 2019
Life&Culture | By Sue Mclaughlin

Before passing behind the sun, 'New Horizons' relays scientific data daily

Before passing behind the sun, 'New Horizons' relays scientific data daily

31, May spoke with the press prior to the flyby of Ultima Thule by NASA New Horizons spacecraft scheduled on January 1, 2019.

Initial data analysis has found no evidence of rings or satellites larger than one mile in diameter orbiting Ultima Thule.

New Horizons on New Year's day came within 2,200 miles (3,500 km) of Ultima Thule, which represents a pristine time capsule dating to the birth of the solar system.

Ultima Thule is deep within the so-called Kuiper Belt, or Twilight Zone, well beyond the orbit of Neptune. This image can be viewed with stereo glasses to reveal the Kuiper Belt object's three-dimensional shape.

As more detailed images of the Ultima Thule are beamed to Earth, NASA hopes to garner more understanding of the solar system's earliest days.

"In the coming months, New Horizons will transmit dozens of data sets to Earth, and we'll write new chapters in the story of Ultima Thule-and the solar system", Helene Winters, New Horizons project manager, said in the statement.

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NASA scientists think that the two spherical objects that make the Ultima Thule planetesimal - the basic building block of planets- likely coalesced around the time the solar system's planetary bodies formed, about 4.6 billion years ago.

NASA said, 'This historic image, the highest resolution image released so far, was made at a range of about 28,000 kilometers only 30 minutes before the New Horizons closest approach. It will keep pressing farther out, observing other objects from afar, and measuring dust and particles. "Two completely separate objects that are now joined together", said S. Alan Stern, the principal investigator for the mission.

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory designed, built, and operates the New Horizons spacecraft, and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

Ultima Thule's surface reflects light about as much as 'garden variety dirt, ' he said, as the sun's rays are 1,600 times fainter there than on Earth. The Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning.

The spacecraft is yielding scientific discoveries daily.

Fox News' Christopher Carbone and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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