NASA declares New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule a huge success

NASA declares New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule a huge success

NASA declares New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule a huge success

The first image of Ultima Thule taken by Nasa's New Horizons spacecraft, taken at a distance of 85,000 miles. The first image of Ultima Thule sent from the spacecraft may have resembled more of a pixelated blob, but it gave us an unprecedented look at the small space object 4 billion miles away from the sun. In total, the object measures around 20 miles in length, while the two spheres are 12 and 9 miles across respectively. The team said data analysis has not yet found any evidence of an atmosphere. The probe's target was the oblong space rock known as Ultima Thule, and even though the spacecraft passed the massive rock at around midnight EST, NASA had to wait another ten hours before they even knew if the probe performed as planned.

The colour of Ultima Thule matches the colour of similar worlds in the Kuiper Belt, as determined by telescopic measurements. The probe still has plenty of fuel to play with, and there's no shortage of interesting objects in the Kuiper Belt, which is packed with debris of varying sizes.

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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.

Since then, the probe has sent images revealing Ultima Thule to be a "contact binary" - two bodies that formed separately and then got stuck together. Now, with signals finally coming back from New Horizons, NASA can rest easy. It will keep pressing farther out, observing other objects from afar, and measuring dust and particles. He joined in the New Year's Day flyby festivities at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, home to Mission Control. The Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning.

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"The first exploration of a small Kuiper Belt object and the most distant exploration of any world in history is now history, but nearly all of the data analysis lies in the future", said Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

The leftmost image shows Ulma Thule's true color as seen by one of New Horizon's instruments. Data transmission resumes January 10, starting a 20-month download of the spacecraft's remaining scientific treasures.

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