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New Horizons set for humanity’s first ever Kuiper Belt rendezvous

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    Article New Horizons set for humanity’s first ever Kuiper Belt rendezvous

    New Horizons set for humanity’s first-ever Kuiper Belt rendezvous | Ars Technica

    If you want your New Year celebrations to be truly out of this world, then you might consider stopping by the New Horizons website. Following on from its phenomenally successful flyby of Pluto, the spacecraft will perform its closest flyby of a small Kuiper Belt object at just after midnight in the US Eastern time zone—the one where the operations center of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory is located.

    Indications that New Horizons survived the flyby—rather than running in to a small moon or ring—will have to wait for the roughly six hours it takes light to travel from the location of 2014 MU69, the target of its attentions. Nicknamed Ultima Thule, the object is a small ball of ice in the distant Kuiper Belt, which is a large collection of small bodies that froze out of a disk of gas and dust early in the Solar System's history.
    For those of you outside the U.S. the Eastern time zone corresponds to -5:33 UTC: EST – Eastern Standard Time (Time Zone Abbreviation)

    This might turn out to be pretty cool. We thought Pluto might be made of undisturbed early Solar System material, but that wasn't the case when we discovered geological activity there. So perhaps Ultima Thule will provide the real deal.
  • #2

    So we might be able to get a look at what an early stage planet might've looked like. Being so far there's probably no way it could've supported life, but it might still provide some very good information. If nothing else, we should get some really cool photos.
    Daryn's Signature

    “Just when you think humanity has found the limits of stupid, they go and ratchet up the standard by another notch.” - Bob


    • #3

      Well... planetesimal, but yes.


      • #4


        NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is about to explore Ultima Thule - The Washington Post

        The nerdiest New Year’s party in the solar system happened 4 billion miles from Earth, where a lone, intrepid spacecraft just flew past the farthest object humans have ever explored.

        There was no champagne in this dim and distant region, where a halo of icy worlds called the Kuiper belt circles the outermost edge of the solar system. There were no renditions of “Auld Lang Syne” (in space, no one can hear you sing).

        But there was a minivan-size spacecraft called New Horizons. And there was a puny, primitive object nicknamed Ultima Thule, a rocky relic of the solar system’s origins, whose name means “beyond the borders of the known world.”


        • #5

          We got images!

          'Meet Ultima Thule': 1st Color Photo of New Horizons Target Reveals a Red 'Snowman' | Space