New Horizons Probe Flies By Distant Asteroid Ultima Thule

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In classic and medieval literature, Thule was the most distant, northernmost place beyond the known world. We will only know what Ultima Thule's surface looks like once New Horizons has sent back the first pictures after it has flown by, although based on observations of similar-sized Solar System objects, it will nearly certainly display impact craters And this is what is really exciting - We will get a chance to study the earliest history of the solar system and its planets.

It is located in the Kuiper Belt, a huge asteroid belt that surrounds our solar system and contains the leftovers of the system's formation.

Ultima Thule - or 2014 MU69, as it is called in astronomical catalogs - is estimated at being somewhere around 30 km wide.

Ultima Thule, at 4 billion miles from the sun and and 1 billion miles from Pluto, will be the most distant object ever directly explored, according to NASA.

He described the New Horizons spaceship as an "amazing piece of American workmanship, operating essentially flawlessly in space for well over a decade".

"The Kuiper Belt is just a scientific wonderland", Alan Sterns, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, said on Sunday.

The New Horizons is expected to send back the first images of the object to the mission team after 8 pm IST Tuesday. In a broader sense, the song is an anthem to mankind's spirit of exploration, reaching ever further out into the universe.

"Who knows what we might find?".

They selected it for the New Horizon's extended mission in 2015.

NASA announced on Twitter that the events will be aired on NASA TV despite concerns the government shutdown would impact the event. Then the spacecraft was to turn briefly toward Earth to transmit word of its success. Though nerve-wracking for engineers, encounter mode ensures that New Horizons makes the most of its brief time near Ultima Thule. "We are straining the capabilities of this spacecraft", Stern said at a news conference Monday.

Until the 1990s, no one knew what hid out here, where sunlight is 0.05 as faint as it is on Earth. "What we'll very soon learn about this primordial building block of our solar system will exponentially expand our knowledge of this relatively unknown third region of space". These bodies are time capsules, preserved in a deep freeze for the past 4.6 billion years. The instruments on New Horizons will create geologic and compositional maps of Ultima Thule, as well as searching for any rings, debris, or even small satellites orbiting the object. Ultima could even be two objects, but only the flyby will tell for sure.

Another NASA spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, also set a new record on Monday by entering orbit around the asteroid Bennu, the smallest cosmic object - about 1,600 feet (500 meters) in diameter - ever circled by a spacecraft. It could be surrounded by a cloud of dust or gas that scatters its light, preventing New Horizons from seeing a discernible light curve. Detailed images won't be available immediately, as it takes around six hours for the data to arrive back on Earth.

JJ Kavelaars, a science team member and astronomer with the National Research Council in Canada, said New Horizons has now verified that the object is spinning, but it's not yet clear at what speed.

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