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New horizons released for optimal approach to Ultima Thule



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New Horizons is a clear pathway for observation after the search for danger near Ultima Thule has failed to find any deposits that could pose a threat to the probe.

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  An illustration of the New Horizons spacecraft flying through the Ultima Thule object on the Kuiper Belt. Image Credit NASA / JPL / JHUAPL

An illustration of the New Horizons probe flying the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule. Image Credit NASA / JPL / JHUAPL

NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft has been formally released to embark on the path best-equipped by mission engineers for three weeks after their second destination, the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule, had sought no waste that could pose a danger to him.

As the probe raced to Ultima Thule at 50,700 kilometers per hour, even tiny particles of rock or ice could destroy it on impact.

A similar process The search for nearby hazards was carried out in 2015 by the New Horizons team in anticipation of the Pluto flyby. No hazards were found so that the probe was able to make the tight approach outlined by the 2011 Hazardwatch team of the mission.

  The two possible fly-bys for New Horizons are indicated by the two concentric circles. The mission has decided to fly closer to the target point marked by an X. Ultima Thule is the bright yellow dot in the middle. Captions: NASA / Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute

The two possible fly-by distances for New Horizons are indicated by the two concentric circles. The mission has decided to fly closer to the target point marked by an X. Ultima Thule is the bright yellow dot in the middle. Caption: NASA / Johns Hopkins – Southwest Research Institute

The Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), a powerful telescope camera and one of the seven science instruments aboard New Horizons, was searching for wrestling for the KBO and circled the orbit of the moons, both of which could potentially produce potentially dangerous debris on the spacecraft's path. From the current range of the probe, LORRI is able to detect moons with a diameter of 3 km (3 miles) and ring particles that reflect only five tenths of a million of the sunlight.

The announcement that New Horizons will take the optimal route Ultima Thule was hit on December 18, the last day to decide if the spacecraft's trajectory should be changed due to potential hazards. The closest approach will be on January 1, 2019 at 12:33 pm EST (05:33 GMT).

"Our team feels as if we were traveling with the spaceship, as if we were mariners on the nest of a ship, on dangers in front of our eyes. The team was fully in agreement that the spacecraft should remain on course and the mission leadership adopted our recommendation, "said Mark Showalter, head of the SETI Institute's Hazard Group.

The spacecraft's next approach will be within 3,200 In contrast, New Horizons was the closest access to Pluto 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers), requiring a closer flyby since Ultima Thule is much smaller than Pluto and about one billion miles from the

Unlike Pluto, which has a diameter of 2,370 kilometers, Ultima Thule is estimated to be only 23 miles (37 kilometers) in diameter.It is not large enough to be spherical, and is irregular in shape Observations that were performed multiple times when the KBO was passed in front of a background star indicate that it is either double lobed or two Consists of objects that orbit each other.

Occult observations also suggested Ultima Thule, which consists of the building blocks of the solar system, which never became part of any larger object, such as a dwarf planet, is dark and reddish in color. The lead investigator of the mission, Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, expects its temperature to be between 40 and 50 degrees above absolute zero, the temperature at which molecules in a substance are nearly motionless.

A final pack of commands are loaded onto the probe just a week before the flyby.

The day before New Horizons was given the "All Clear", a science team headed by Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution for Science announced the discovery of the farthest dwarf planet to date is about 120 astronomical units (equivalent to one AU) the average distance of earth and sun – about 93 million miles) from the sun. The distant object, named "Farout", located behind the dwarf planets Eris and Sedna, is estimated to be about 300 miles (483 km) in diameter, so it is large enough to be spherical.

New Horizons will not be able to watch "Farout" even remotely, as the dwarf planet is in a different direction than the one the spacecraft is traveling.

Tagged: Kuiper belt object LORRI New Horizons The Ultima Thule Range

Laurel Kornfeld

Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, New Jersey who likes to write about astronomy and planetology. She studied journalism at Rutgers University's Douglass College and earned a graduate certificate from the Astronomy Online Program at Swinburne University. Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, the guest blog section of Astronomy magazine, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly, the Space Reporter, and the newsletters from various astronomy clubs. She is a member of Amateur Astronomers, Inc., based in Cranford, New Jersey, and was particularly interested in the outer solar system. In 2008 she gave a short presentation on the Great Planet debate that took place in 2008 at the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, MD. 19659024]
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