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Home / Science / NASA's new horizons enable the first detection of the Flyby Target in the Kuiper belt

NASA's new horizons enable the first detection of the Flyby Target in the Kuiper belt



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From NASA // August 28, 2018

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"… amazing exploration awaits!"

The image on the left is a composite image that was created by adding 48 different images of the Long Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), each with an exposure time of 29.967 seconds, taken on August 16, 2018. The predicted position of the Kuiper Nicknamed Belt object Ultima Thule is located in the middle of the yellow box and is indicated by the red cross hairs above and to the left of a nearby star that is about 17 times brighter than Ultima. On the right is an enlarged view of the region in the yellow box, after subtracting a background star field "Template" that LORRI recorded in September 2017 before it could recognize the object itself. Ultima is clearly visible in this image subtracted from stars and is very close to the place where the scientists predicted, suggesting that New Horizons is heading in the right direction. The many artifacts in the image subtracted by stars are caused either by small misregistrations between the new LORRI images and the pattern or by intrinsic brightness variations of the stars. At the time of these observations, Ultima Thule was 107 million miles (172 million kilometers) from the New Horizons spacecraft and 4 billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from the Sun. (NASA image)

(NASA) – NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has discovered its next fly-by target, the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule, more than four months before the next encounter in 2019.

The members of the mission team were thrilled – if not a little surprised – that the telescope Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) of New Horizons was able to handle the small, sombre object at a distance of more than 100 million miles and to see the dense starry sky.

Recorded on Aug. 16 and carried over NASA's Deep Space Network in the following days, the set of 48 images marked the team's first attempt to find Ultima with their own cameras.

"The image field is extremely rich Background Stars make it difficult to detect weak objects," said Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist and LORRI Principal Investigator from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. 19659011] "The field of view is extremely rich in background stars, making it difficult to spot weak objects," said Hal Weaver, New Horizons Project Scientist and LORRI Principal Investigator, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland.

"It really is like finding a needle in a haystack." In these first pictures Ultima only appears as a bump on the side of a background star that's about 17 times brighter, but Ultima gets brighter – and easier to see – as the spacecraft comes closer. "

This first detection is important because the observations New Horizons will make over Ultima over the next four months will help the mission team navigate the spaceship on Ultima at 12:33 EST on 1 January 2019 to refine.

This Ultima Was Where The mission scientists expected them to use exactly where they had predicted and the data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope shows that the team already has a good idea of ​​Ultima's orbit.

The Ultima flyby will be the very first close-up exploration of a small Kuiper belt object and the furthest exploration of a planetary body in history, raising the record set by New Horizons to Pluto in July 2015 by about $ 1 billion Miles was broken. These images are also the farthest from the sun ever made, breaking the 1990 record of the Voyager 1 "Pale Blue Dot" image of the Earth. (New Horizons set the record for the most distant image of Earth in December 2017).

"Our team has been working hard to find out if Ultima was discovered by LORRI at such a great distance, and the result is a definite yes," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute in Boulder. Colorado.

"We have now targeted Ultima, much further out than ever before possible, we are on Ultima's doorstep, and an amazing exploration awaits us!"

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