NASA Spacecraft New Horizons Beams Back First Image Of FlybyTarget Ultima Thule

Christopher Davidson
September 2, 2018

Ultima Thule is minuscule by comparison, an estimated 20 miles (30 kilometers) across.

There are 2 highly processed images here, acquired by New Horizons on August 16, 2018. It will be the first close-up observation of a small Kuiper belt object, one of the clumps of ice and rock beyond the orbit of Neptune.

In the end, managed to get 48 unique photo with an exposure of 28 seconds.

Artist's impression of New Horizons encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. The predicted position of 2014 MU69 is at the center of the yellow box, and is indicated by the yellow crosshairs, just above and left of a nearby star that is approximately 17 times brighter than 2014 MU69.

The images show Ultima Thule surrounded by bright background stars dotting the cosmic landscape, all but blotting out the dim, cold, and small object 1 billion miles from Pluto.

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The Kuiper Belt is at the outskirts of the Solar System and consists of different kinds of dwarf planets like Pluto. Image credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI. "We concept or no longer it is price giving it a shot a month early", Hal Weaver, the lead scientist working with the Contemporary Horizons' long distance digital camera, advised the Contemporary York Times.

He also stated the photo is filled with bright background stars that make it immensely hard to detect faint objects. So the New Horizons team was reassured earlier this month when the craft returned its first images of Ultima, showing the little KBO is very close to where scientists predicted it would be. Now New Horizons is headed toward its next target, a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) called 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule. The spacecraft is expected to approach the world at 12:33 a.m. ET on January 1, 2019, bringing its surface into focus for the first time.

It is an image of a primitive planetary object of the Kuiper belt, the last stop on the trip now being made by NASA's New Horizons probe, which has been called Ultima Thule.

"We now have Ultima in our sights from much farther out than once thought possible", stated Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator.

Furthermore, the Ultima flyby will be the farthest exploration of any part in space.

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