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Nasa's New Horizons spacecraft 'phones home' after flyby of Ultima Thule

Scientists celebrate probe’s successful completion of most distant space flyby in history

Nasa scientists are celebrating after a spacecraft “phoned home” to confirm it had successfully performed the most distant space flyby in history in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

Thousands of photographs of the dark, icy space rock called Ultima Thule were snapped by the New Horizons probe as it barrelled past it on the outer edge of the solar system at 0533 GMT.

After being out of contact for 10 hours, anxious staff at the mission’s control centre at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland broke out in applause on Tuesday after confirmation signals were received from the probe, which could have been seriously damaged by even the smallest particles.

“We have a healthy spacecraft. We’ve just accomplished the most distant flyby,” said Alice Bowman, mission operations manager for New Horizons. “We are ready for Ultima Thule’s science transmission, science to help us understand the origins of our solar system.”


^Artist’s impression of the New Horizons spacecraft encountering Ultima Thule. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Ultima Thule lies 4bn miles (6.5bn km) from Earth in the Kuiper belt, a band of dwarf planets, space rocks and icy debris left over from the formation of the solar system 4.6bn years ago. Because of the distance, scientists had to wait 10 hours to learn whether the flyby had been successful.

From being a small dot only known in the form of a number of pixels, Ultima Thule will soon be viewed as an “entirely new world”, according to Nasa, as further images are beamed back. The first pictures are expected to be published later this week, but the full download of the data will take 20 months to complete.

Alan Stern, principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, said images taken during the spacecraft’s approach suggested Ultima Thule is probably shaped like a bowling pin, with two bulbous ends. However, he said a possibility remained that it may be two separate objects locked in a tight orbit.
New Horizons is so distant that mission scientists had no way of helping out with any last-minute glitches. Instead any final troubleshooting will have to have been handled by the probe’s onboard software.

Jim Bridenstine, Nasa’s chief administrator, said in a tweeted statement: “In addition to being the first to explore Pluto, today New Horizons flew by the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft and became the first to directly explore an object that holds remnants from the birth of our solar system.

“This is what leadership in space exploration is all about.”

Hal Weaver, a research professor at Johns Hopkins University and a project scientist on the New Horizons mission, called the flyby a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

“This is another great step in the exploration of our solar system,” he said.

After the Pluto encounter, Stern asked Brian May, the Queen guitarist and astrophysicist, if he would compose a track to celebrate the Ultima Thule flyby.

“I did scratch my head for a while,” said May. “The name is quite hard to conjure with. But then it came to me that this is about man’s desire to reach out into the universe and explore, and see things that have never been seen before.”

The New Horizons track, May’s first solo single for two decades, included a message from Stephen Hawking and was premiered at the control centre shortly before the flyby. “It’s been very exciting. I feel like I’m on that thing,” May said. “To me, it’s about the human spirit and reaching out to discover where we are and why we are here.”

Little is known about Ultima Thule, or 2014 MU69, to use its official name. But based on preliminary observations, scientists think it may resemble a giant peanut with two large lobes fused together. The dark rock may contain frozen carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, molecular nitrogen and methane, which may be exposed by impact craters on the surface.

While some comets that streak through the solar system are thought to have originated in the Kuiper belt, space rocks as distant as Ultima Thule have remained on the outer edges of the solar system since birth. For this reason it is thought that objects such as Ultima Thule, the so-called cold classical Kuiper belt objects, look the same today as they did at the dawn of the solar system.

“We’ve never explored a body as primordial or as far away from the sun as Ultima Thule,” said Mohamed Ramy El Maarry, a New Horizons science team collaborator and lecturer at Birkbeck, University of London. “This gives us a chance to look at what comets are like before they enter the inner solar system. They’ve been in deep freeze since they formed 4.6bn years ago.”

He added: “What’s really exciting is we expect to see surprises. We are really looking at the basic ingredients of the solar system. This can tell us a lot about the building blocks of the solar system, about the conditions when the solar system formed, and about other solar systems as well.”

The first images to be beamed home from Ultima Thule will be small and grainy, but a day or two after the encounter, Nasa hopes to have more impressive pictures from the probe. “This is the first time we’ll fly past a cold classical Kuiper belt object and really see what it looks like,” said Weaver. “We’re taking our first steps into this whole new zone of the solar system. We’re on our way.”

Bowman said: “We can build a spacecraft on Earth, and we send it out billions of miles away from Earth, and it sends us back all this wonderful data that we get to look at and learn more about our world, our solar system.

“There’s a bit of all of us on that spacecraft that will just continue after we’re long gone here on Earth.”

Source https://www.theguardian.com/science...ns-heads-for-flyby-of-space-rock-ultima-thule

Can't wait for the hi-res pictures and I'll update when they come out unless someone posts.

Really excited to see them, and the video by May is fitting. Exciting times ahead and more info on our solar system and how it was formed.

Didn't see a thread, call me a flat earther if old.
 

jufonuk

not tag worthy
In 2019 I want more of this and less of the stupid infighting we been doing planet wise. Hey everyone let’s all evolve to be better and make the earth awesome then take out place amongst the stars
 

DunDunDunpachi

Patient MembeR
I love that New Horizons now has its own theme song.

Definitely exciting news. I'm eager to see what sort of images are beamed back.
 


"Taken as the probe sped past the body in the early hours of New Year’s Day, the pictures reveal a dark reddish object about 21 miles long and 10 miles wide that spins on its axis once every 15 hours or so. The colour image of Ultima Thule, revealing its reddish tint, was taken at 05.01 GMT on New Year’s Day from a distance of about 18,000 miles, 30 minutes before the probe made its closest pass of the space rock.

The spacecraft snapped thousands of images of the object, known formally as 2014 MU69, in a fleeting encounter that set a record for the most distant flyby in history. From a billion miles beyond Pluto, it takes data sent at the speed of light about six hours to reach Earth.

“Meet Ultima Thule,” said Alan Stern, the mission’s principal investigator, as he unveiled the images at a press conference on Wednesday. The scientists originally described the object as shaped like a bowling pin, but Stern said he had changed his mind on seeing the new picture. “That bowling pin is gone. It’s a snowman if anything at all,” he said.

The odd shape of Ultima Thule is thought to have come about when swirling ice and dust particles coalesced in the early life of the solar system and eventually led to two large lumps of rock colliding and sticking together. Stern said that the gravity of each “lobe” was enough to keep the two parts of Ultima Thule in contact.

Preliminary analysis of the images showed that the neck that joins the two lobes of Ultima Thule is brighter than the rest of the mottled surface, probably because loose grains had collected there, said Cathy Olkin, a scientist on the mission. The dark red hue of much of the surface is thought to be due to the effects of space radiation on exotic ices on the surface.

The New Horizons spacecraft launched in 2006 on a mission to explore Pluto. When it shot past the dwarf planet in 2015, it captured breathtaking shots of the distant world, one now known to host mountains of solid nitrogen and volcanoes that blast ice into space.

Like Pluto, Ultima Thule lies in a region of the solar system called the Kuiper belt, a doughnut-shaped ring of dwarf planets, boulders and other debris left over from the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago. The Nasa probe came within 2,200 miles of Ultima Thule, meaning “beyond the known world”, as it hurtled past at 31,500mph.

Mission scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland had to wait 10 hours for New Horizons to confirm that the flyby at 05.33 GMT on Tuesday had proceeded smoothly and that the spacecraft was still operational. At such terrific speed, a collision with a particle as small as a grain of rice could have spelt disaster for the probe.

At a press briefing on Tuesday to mark the flyby, team members released images of Ultima Thule taken when New Horizons was still half a million miles away. It was described by project scientist Hal Weaver as “a pixelated blob”, and at the time image analysts did not rule out it being two small bodies in orbit around one another.

The early images solved one mystery surrounding the distant space rock. Elongated bodies like Ultima Thule are expected to brighten and fade with clockwork regularity as they tumble through space. This is because the body’s long side reflects more light than its short side. But Ultima Thule shows no such variation in brightness. The reason is that the rock is spinning like a propeller on an axis that points towards Earth, meaning it reflects the same amount of light in our direction all the time.

Scientists on the mission believe that studying Ultima Thule could provide unprecedented insights into the conditions that prevailed in our cosmic neighbourhood more than four and a half billion years ago. Kuiper belt objects are thought to have occupied their distant positions since the earliest days of the solar system and may look the same today as they did back then.

If all goes well, the spacecraft will beam home more data over the next 20 months. The highest-resolution images from the flyby are expected in February."

Source https://www.theguardian.com/science...ma-thule-reveal-it-resembles-dark-red-snowman

Not very exciting picture, but the data and more details is an exciting start to the year and as mentioned hopefully we as humans start looking up and to the future than languish in the past.

Hi-res pics coming next month and data & more pics over the next 20 months. I'll try and keep updating, please feel free to if I miss anything. Start a 20 month thread 🙄, I didn't plan.

Also Brian May is an astrophysisist is so perfect to write the theme.
 
Thank you for the knowledge-drop, Unknown Quantity Unknown Quantity

This is really excellent stuff.

More than happy to, I missed good news. We are moving in the right direction. With the Chinese landing on the dark side of the moon (hope they prepared for nazis), and the Japanese getting samples from and possibly mining an asteroid hopefully is just the start.

New Horizons has enough fuel to go for another 10 years I believe, so we'll be getting more info on what or who is outthere.
 

#Phonepunk#

Banned
Ultima Thule is such an awesome name. makes me think of Thulsa Doom.

Kuiper Belt objects are some of the most distant in our solar system, so it's interesting to finally start peering outside of our own neck of the woods.
 

Redneckerz

Those long posts don't cover that red neck boy
More than happy to, I missed good news. We are moving in the right direction. With the Chinese landing on the dark side of the moon (hope they prepared for nazis), and the Japanese getting samples from and possibly mining an asteroid hopefully is just the start.

New Horizons has enough fuel to go for another 10 years I believe, so we'll be getting more info on what or who is outthere.
Obviously snowmans do not exist so the presence of an entity not only shaped like a snowman but also snowman white means its staged. Its bullshit. It never happened. New Horizons is just an imagination machine tricking us souls with delusions of grandeur. #angularsaxophonemodeoff
 

Nelsin

Banned
Idk I feel sad that it takes 6 hours for light to reach earth from new horizon..... it just kills every hope for us to find new planets and colonize them. We are truly doomed on earth :(
 
Idk I feel sad that it takes 6 hours for light to reach earth from new horizon..... it just kills every hope for us to find new planets and colonize them. We are truly doomed on earth :(

We are still theoretically far away from doing that. The progress in science and technology in the last 100 years might mean that it's hopefully not millenia away but definitely (maybe) not in our lifetimes.

Mars is an option in our Solar system. This one is more realistic, but again we are I think 30+ years away from it at a liveable existence and more if terraforming is involved.

There is a little blackout period for data coming back from NH as radiation from the sun means it won't restart till next week. The data is being analysed so more info is coming.
 
Idk I feel sad that it takes 6 hours for light to reach earth from new horizon..... it just kills every hope for us to find new planets and colonize them. We are truly doomed on earth :(
If you haven't already seen it I suggest subscribing to Isaac Arthur's youtube channel. He's a physicist who joined the military during the Aughts, and now makes lengthy youtube videos on futurist topics using actual science. There are times where he references tech magic from sci-fi that has no basis in known physics, but he labels them well. His video on O'neill Cylinders pretty much lead me to believe that it will be the most cost-effective way of major habitation off Earth. Given a fusion economy and a fully industrialized moon you can build another Earth's worth of livable space at the L4 and L5 Earth-Moon lagrange points.

 
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petran79

Banned
If you haven't already seen it I suggest subscribing to Isaac Arthur's youtube channel. He's a physicist who joined the military during the Aughts, and now makes lengthy youtube videos on futurist topics using actual science. There are times where he references tech magic from sci-fi that has no basis in known physics, but he labels them well. His video on O'neill Cylinders pretty much lead me to believe that it will be the most cost-effective way of major habitation off Earth. Given a fusion economy and a fully industrialized moon you can build another Earth's worth of livable space at the L4 and L5 Earth-Moon lagrange points.


I dont see why it would not be possible also to dig deep into the earths core or colonize the depths of the oceans or even build sky cities and space colonies orbiting earth
 
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I dont see why it would not be possible also to dig deep into the earths core or colonize the depths of the oceans or even build sky cities and space colonies orbiting earth

You can only dig so deep into the crust before temperature and pressure will make large ecologies impossible. Right now you can certainly dig deep enough to provide a massive amount of living space underground, but if we are at the population point where underground arcologies are needed then hopefully we already have fusion power available for underground food production.

Hanging cities from massive floating oceanic arcologies are also technically possible now, but way too expensive for current implementation. Once again, the near-infinite possibilities of fusion power is the key to virtually everything.

I need you to define a sky city. An active support tower that reaches orbital heights would certainly count, but needs a shit-ton of power. Given Earth's gravity and atmosphere I don't see how you float anything substantial without a stupid-big bag of hydrogen.

The orbiting habitats are the O'Neill Cylinders I mentioned. Big enough to provide 1G of spin gravity without fucking with the human body, long enough to provide a huge surface area, Babylon 5 scale at least. Link them together to form a dense geometric pattern with fusion reactors at the nodes. The L4 and L5 positions of any orbital system requires the least amount of thrust stationkeeping, and can be built truly massive.

With all things on a grand scale, reliable fusion power is the key to everything. I don't call it the Holy Grail for nothing.
 

Redneckerz

Those long posts don't cover that red neck boy
Either you've never seen a penis before or you have a really strange penis.
Or you are just jelly-belly that this thing has a bigger willy than you (or me, or pretty much everyone else on this forum). I take my chances with this theory.
 
New data is... Interesting to say the least.

Actual 3 second flyby



A still from a Nasa animation that depicts a shape model of Ultima Thule created by the New Horizons science team based on its analysis of all the pre-flyby images sent to Earth so far.



They say they've never seen anything like it orbiting the Sun, others would say one already is....

Will keep updating as more Info is available.
 

Redneckerz

Those long posts don't cover that red neck boy
New data is... Interesting to say the least.

Actual 3 second flyby



A still from a Nasa animation that depicts a shape model of Ultima Thule created by the New Horizons science team based on its analysis of all the pre-flyby images sent to Earth so far.



They say they've never seen anything like it orbiting the Sun, others would say one already is....

Will keep updating as more Info is available.
It literally looks like two Roblox heads fused together and independently morphed.

And that's why space is awesome because stuff like this literally exists, somewhere. Love the vid and the pic!
 
A Gentle Kiss: How the Kuiper Belt Object Ultima Thule Was Born.

A surprisingly gentle merger between two small primordial bodies formed the distant object Ultima Thule, a new study suggests.


These two progenitors themselves likely coalesced from the same cloud of icy material at the dawn of the solar system, billions of miles from the newborn sun. They initially circled a common center of mass but spiraled closer and closer, eventually meeting up in decidedly leisurely fashion.


"These guys look like they came together at literally spacecraft-docking speed," said study lead author Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "This really is informative about the origin of planetesimals out there."


Stern is principal investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission, which flew by Ultima Thule on Jan. 1 of this year. The new study, which was published online today (May 16) in the journal Science, describes the initial science returns from that flyby, the most-distant planetary encounter in the history of spaceflight.

Source

More at the source.

So it was a gentle coming together and billions of years later they still chilling. The part about planetesimals was a great read.
 
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