NASA's New Horizons mission to Ultima Thule in the Distant Kuiper Belt

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 03 January 2019


NASA's New Horizons mission to the Kuiper Belt

 NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Ultimate-Thule from New Horizons Spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

NASA's New Horizons Mission Reveals Entirely New Kind of World,
Images of the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule unveil the very first stages of solar system's history,
NASA, January 2, 2019.


“...NASA's New Horizons mission released the first detailed images of the most distant object ever explored — the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule.”

Kuiper Belt (Wiki)
"...extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun. It is similar to the asteroid belt, but is far larger—20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive. Like the asteroid belt, it consists mainly of small bodies or remnants from when the Solar System formed."

NASA on Kuiper Belt

Target Acquired
"Never before has any spacecraft team tracked down such a small body at such high speed so far away in the abyss of space. New Horizons has set a new bar for state-of-the-art spacecraft navigation."

Name & Sizes
“The team has dubbed the larger sphere "Ultima" (12 miles/19 kilometers across) and the smaller sphere "Thule" (9 miles/14 kilometers across).”

Slow Speed Collision
“The team says that the two spheres likely joined as early as 99 percent of the way back to the formation of the solar system, colliding no faster than two cars in a fender-bender.”

4.554 Billion Years Ago
(That would put the joining of Ultima and Thule back 4.554 of the 4.6 Billion Years we currently put the beginning of the formation and evolution of our solar system)

What it Shows Us
"New Horizons is like a time machine, taking us back to the birth of the solar system. We are seeing a physical representation of the beginning of planetary formation, frozen in time."

New Knowledge from Deep Past
"In the coming months, New Horizons will transmit dozens of data sets to Earth, and we'll write new chapters in the story of Ultima Thule — and the solar system."

First Color Images
 NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.
First Image of Ultima-Thule from 85,000 miles out, Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.



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