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NASA New Horizons to photograph Ultima Thule in the historical past of the new year



The impression of a NASA New Horizons spacecraft artist who meets Ultima Thule (2014 MU69), a Kuiper belt object that occupies a billion miles beyond Pluto, on January 1 2019.

NASA / Johns Hopkins University Laboratory of Applied Physics / Southwest Research Institute / Steve Gribben

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is configured to explore more remote worlds than ever when it flies in 2014 MU69 in the first hours of Year's Day.

The boat has been focusing for the last two weeks, as NASA scientists made a series of corrections and tracking corrections to ensure that New Horizons is on the right track to collect the maximum information possible on the mysterious object: nicknamed Ultima Thule – without blocking any trash that is lurking from our solar system.

"This last day was probably the most intense for us," said Alice Bowman, manager of New Horizons missions operations at APL, on the sister webpage of CNET CBS News. "We had these optical navigation measurements going down much closer, that means a lot of the equipment was all night."

He also said that the spacecraft would be 19 miles away from its goal. It's about 2,200 miles from the object.

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On December 15, the 12 researchers who make up the New Horizons danger guard team confirmed that the approach path was safe using the New Horizons telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). Yes they it had Open moons or rings near Ultima, NASA would have opted for a secondary flight path, with the New Horizons course, correcting and steering the object at a much larger distance.

As you approach New Horizons, Ultima Thule becomes brighter and brighter. Soon, the ship will fly the mysterious object at a distance of 2,200 miles from its surface.

NASA / Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwestern Research Laboratory / Henry Throop

"The team was in total consensus that the spacecraft should remain in a closer trajectory and the leadership of the mission adopted our recommendation," said Mark Showalter, leader of the risk team.

As it stands, New Horizons will pass through Ultima Thule with a distance of 3,500 kilometers (about 2,200 kilometers), its best path. To put this in perspective, remember those epic photos of Pluto? The New Horizons chambers broke those that flew 12,500 kilometers (about 7,800 miles) from the surface of the far dwarf planet.

In this way, New Horizons will arrive three times closer to Ultra Thule than to Pluto and will provide NASA researchers with valuable images and scientific data of a world we do not know about.

On December 26, New Horizons entered Mode of meeting, a type of "safe mode" that ensures that the scientific objectives of the mission will be carried out even if the spacecraft are malfunctioning. In normal circumstances, a malfunction is seen in the New Horizons home phone asking for help, but due to the fact that 12 hours have to be done, it is risky to do so when the ship is in its approach.

Virtually, entering the meeting mode means that the spacecraft is alone. With thousands of instructions loaded on your computers on board, it has begun its delicate dance, 1 billion miles beyond Pluto.

Two days before leaving New Horizons on their own devices, the image of the highest resolution of the distant "world" took off: the darkness and the pixelated blur below shows Ultima Thule in the center, 10 million kilometers (about 6.3 million miles) away.


New Horizons detects Ultima Thule (in a circle) in the high resolution image taken by LORRI on December 24.

NASA / Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute

At the end of a week, this small pixel of light in the distance will become a known world. We'll see what it is, what is done, how cold it is, its mass and whether it has its own moon.

New Horizons will be played literally in the New Year flying beyond the farthest world we have explored, with the closest approach that will be at 12:33 a.m. ET in January 1. Although the United States is currently in the middle of a continuing federal government closure, you can still catch the reactions and live simulations of the flyby on the New Horizons mission website. The data and images of the flyby are expected later on New Year's Day, at any time after 11:30 a.m. ET.

After a year of spatial newsAnyway, New Horizons will plan to set 2019 on the right-hand track, so we suggest you tap the Interstellar soundtrack on the New Year's Eve, install yourself and marvel at the new world we are going to discover.

Published for the first time on December 26, 4:23 p.m. PT
Update, December 27, 6:35 p.m. PT: He adds that New Horizons has entered the Meeting Mode and is on his way to his historic flyer.
Update, December 31, 8:55 a.m. PT: Add a comment from the APL mission operations manager.

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