The New Horizons spacecraft is healthy and is now beginning its final approach to explore Ultima Thule — our first Kuiper Belt object (KBO) flyby target — about a billion miles beyond Pluto. And on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, New Horizons will swoop three times closer to “Ultima” than we flew past Pluto three years ago!
As someone who follows New Horizons, let your friends and social media followers know about the upcoming exploration of Ultima and that New Horizons and NASA will make history at the holidays with this epic exploration.
Ultima is 100 times smaller than Pluto, but its scientific value is incalculable. From everything we know, it was formed 4.5 or 4.6 billion years ago, 4 billion miles from the Sun. It’s been stored at that enormous distance from the Sun, at a temperature of nearly absolute zero, ever since, so it likely represents the best sample of the ancient solar nebula ever studied. Nothing like it has ever been explored.
Its geology and composition should teach us a lot about how these building blocks of small planets like Pluto were formed. The New Horizons mission team is excited too, and we can’t wait to see what we will find!
Will Ultima be an agglomeration of still smaller bodies formed at the birth of the solar system? Will it have an atmosphere? Will it have rings? Will it have moons? Any of that could be possible, and soon we’ll know the answers to these questions. So come along with New Horizons, spend your Christmas in the Kuiper Belt and your New Year’s with NASA – and join us for the Ultima flyby.
Until then, I hope you’ll always keep exploring — just as we do!
– Alan Stern
There are many ways to follow New Horizons news and commentary on social media, such as these listed below. You can find others by searching the web.
• NASA’s New Horizons website
• New Horizons mission website
• NASA New Horizons on Twitter
• The PI’s “Inside View” on Twitter
• New Horizons on Facebook
• New Horizons E-News signup