NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is about the furthest planetary flyby in space flight history, and you can follow the action live.
On January 1 at 12:33 pm EST (0533 GMT), New Horizons will pass the small Ultima Thule object located 1 billion kilometers (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto in the realm of the icy body known as the Kuiper Belt.
The mission team will keep the public up to date on New Horizons' progress in the coming days through a series of press conferences and updates that can be followed directly through the Space Agency or the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab manages the New Horizons mission for NASA. You can also follow events here on Space.com by courtesy of NASA TV and JHUAPL.
As NASA is currently affected by a partial government downturn, there were some early questions about how the agency would divide the Ultima of New Horizons Thule's flyby with the public. On Thursday (December 27), NASA CEO Jim Bridenstine assured the public that the agency would webcast the historic event. [NASA̵
"Expect the social media accounts of @NASANewHorizons to continue to function," Bridenstine wrote on Twitter . "The contract for these activities has been pre-funded, including @OSIRISREx and NASA TV. @NASA will continue to stun the world with its success!"
Here is the schedule:
Monday, December 31:
– 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm EST ( 1900-2000 GMT): Press Conference to Preview Science and Operation in Flight Operations
– 3 pm. to 16:00 EST (2000-2100 GMT): Questions and Answers with the New Horizons Team
– 8pm to 11pm EST (0100-0400 GMT on 1 January): panel discussion exploring small worlds; Flyby countdown events; Mission Updates
Tuesday, January 1
– 12:15 pm to 12:45 pm EST (0515-0545 GMT): Countdown to the meeting; Real-time Flyby Simulations
– 9:45 am to 10:15 am EST (1445-1515 GMT): Live coverage of the New Horizons Flyby Signaling
– 11:30 am to 12:30 pm EST (1630 to 1730 GMT): Press Conference after Flying
– 2:00 pm EST (1900 GMT): Press Conference on Scientific Results Flyby Science
– 2:00 pm EST (1900 GMT): Press Conference on Scientific Research Results
The New Year's flyby will break the New Horizons distance record set in July 2015, when he crossed 12,550 km (12,550 km) from Pluto and the first pictures from the vicinity of this diverse and complex world.
New Horizons will be much closer to Ultima Thule and will be within just 3,540 km (3500 km) of the approximately 23-mile human object (37 km). The US East Coast heralds the New Year. And it's unclear what exactly the spacecraft will see. Astronomers know very little about Ultima Thule, whose official name is 2014 MU69. It is indeed unclear whether Ultima is a single object or a close pair.
Whatever New Horizons sees will undoubtedly fascinate scientists. They are anxious to take a good look at Ultima, an untouched, frozen relic of the solar system's planet-formation time – a kind of body never seen in the vicinity.
The Ultima Thule Flyby Just hours after the NASA asteroid sampling probe OSIRIS-REx slipped into orbit around space rock Bennu.
OSIRIS-REx officially arrived in the 500-meter-wide Bennu and Mission Membership on December 3. I spent the last four weeks studying space rock and preparing for orbital placement. Caution is advised, as this will be a delicate maneuver: no probe has ever brought such a small object into orbit as Bennu.
Press releases and updates on OSIRIS-REx activities and December 31 orbital insertion will not be published on NASA's website because of the government's ongoing partial stoppage. However, these materials will be available on the Mission Web site and the University of Arizona's main news site. (The University of Arizona is home to OSIRIS REx chief investigator Dante Lauretta and the Mission's Science Processing and Operations Center.)
Short updates are also available on OSIRIS-REx's Twitter ( @OSIRISREx ) his. Facebook (@OSIRISREx) and Instagram (osiris_rex) report.
Mike Wall's book on the search for extraterrestrial life "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018, illustrated by Karl Tate) has been published. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall . Follow us @SpaceTotcom or Facebook. Originally published on Space.com.