New Horizons Spaceship Encounters Ultima Thule, the World Awaits Historic Photo

New Horizons Spaceship Encounters Ultima Thule, the World Awaits Historic Photo 1 photo
Just a few short moments into the new year, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft made its historic flyby of Ultima Thule, a Kuiper belt object located billions of miles away from Earth.
As it passed by the piece of rock, the ship took a phot of it, just as it did when it shot past Pluto a few years ago. Given the great distance between New Horizons and Earth, it will take the data at least six hours to reach our planet and an extra few for NASA to process it.

The photo and additional info were taken from a little distance away. New Horizons had to perform a 140 seconds flyby at a distance of 75 by 200 miles (120 by 320 kilometer) around the object.

But even as the world awaits news from the far reaches of the solar system, New Horizons has once again made it to the history books. Ultima Thule, known to scientists as (486958) 2014 MU69, is the farthest natural object ever encountered in space by a human-built spacecraft.

"We set a record! Never before has a spacecraft explored something so far away,"
said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern in a statement cited by

"I mean, think of it. We're a billion miles further than Pluto, and now we're going to keep going into the Kuiper Belt.”

What scientists hope to gather from what the ship will be sending back is an insight into how the solar system was formed. Ultima Thule, a rock 30 kilometers (19 miles) in diameter, could be what many of the solar system's rocky planets looked like in their infancy.

It is located in the Kuiper Belt, a huge asteroid belt that surrounds our solar system and contains the leftovers of the system's formation. The area is now allso suspected to be home of a huge, yet undiscovered Planet Nine.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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