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Thread: New Horizons Flyby of Ultima Thule

  1. #1

    New Horizons Flyby of Ultima Thule

    Tonight the New Horizon spacecraft will make its flyby of "Ultima Thule" the farthest body in our solar system to be explored by a spacecraft. New Horizon will make its closest approach at 12:33 AM on Jan 1. New Horizon has gone into "maximum science" mode, meaning it will not transmit any information to earth until after the flyby is complete. We won't know what happened until sometime mid morning on Jan. 1, 2019. The spacecraft has limited electric power (about 100 watts) and will use all of it for collecting an storing information about Ultima Thule. After the data gathering flyby is complete, New Horizon will start transmitting the information to earth.

    The flyby is planned to be about 2200 miles from Ultima Thule and New Horizon will be traveling about 9 miles per second (over 32,000 mph) at closest approach.

    If you want to follow along, here are the two official links:

    NASA contractor Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (builder of New Horizon):


    Ultima Thule is an object in the Kuiper Belt, about 5 billion miles from earth. It is about 20 miles in its longest dimension and shaped somewhat like a peanut, with larger ends and a smaller middle. It is unknown at this time if it is one object, two objects orbiting each other in close proximity or two objects touching each other. We will know soon.

    New Horizon was launched January 19, 2006 and will be within 400 miles and 2 seconds of the projected rendezvous time and location. It previously did a flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015 and provided some incredible closeups of Pluto and its moons -Charon (by far the largest), Kerberus, Nix, Hydra and Styx, . They can be viewed on the above web sites.


    Data transit time to earth is over 6 hours. That is, a byte of data being sent from New Horizon takes over six hours to reach earth, all the while the radio signal is traveling at the speed of light.

    Artist rendering of New Horizon is my Avatar. It is about the size and shape of a grand piano (minus the legs) with a satellite dish antenna on top.
    Last edited by Deaconblue; 12-31-2018 at 06:58 PM.

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    Was reading about this the other day. Amazing stuff!

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    I just think its cool that radio waves can travel at the speed of light.

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    Astrophysicist Brian May, PhD., composed a song for New Horizons mission feat. It received first play at NASA last night just as the New Horizons spacecraft made its closest approach. It is "New Horizons (Ultima Thule Mix). It imcludes some snippets from the late Dr. Stephen Hawking. Brian May has been working with Dr. Alan Stern, New Horizons program director.

    The track should be available soon on

    For those of you who recognize the name, Brian May has a better paying night job as guitarist for Queen. This is his first solo track in many years.

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    did they take those photos with a flip phone? I'm obviously spoiled from other astronomy photography.

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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by DeacDiggler View Post
    did they take those photos with a flip phone? I'm obviously spoiled from other astronomy photography.

    That pic was taken from a pretty big distance. NASA started recording images when Ultima Thule was only two pixels on the field of view. It will be 20 months before NASA gets all the data from New Horizons.


    No more new pictures until after Jan 10. Earth and New Horizons are on opposite sides of the sun. The sun is blocking all communication until then.
    Last edited by Deaconblue; 01-04-2019 at 05:18 PM.

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