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Astro Bob

New Horizons On Final Approach To Ultima Thule

26 Dec 2018, 15:23 UTC
New Horizons On Final Approach To Ultima Thule
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This composite image of Ultima Thule was taken on December 2. The asteroid is practically lost among the stars in the left image, but after a little stellar subtraction it stands out nicely. NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute
NASA’s New Horizons is about to encounter the farthest object ever explored by a spacecraft — Ultima Thule. The frigid hunk of ice and rock is more than 4 billion miles (6.4 billion km) away, so far away that it takes the paltry sunlight reflecting from the asteroid to more than 6 hours to reach Earth. Located in the direction of Sagittarius the Archer among the rich star fields of the Milky Way, Ultima is dim mote of light, so faint we still haven’t firmed up its diameter, estimated at 12 to 22 miles (20-35 km) across.
New Horizons first flew by Pluto at a distance of 7,800 miles (12,500 km) in July 2015. This next target lies beyond the dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt, a repository of asteroids and comets orbiting the sun past Neptune in near absolute zero cold. The New Horizons hazards team studied images taken of Ultima Thule (ul-teh-muh THOO-lee) ...

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