New Horizons gives a ‘goodbye glance’ toward Ultima Thule before continuing its deep space adventure11 Feb 2019, 10:14 UTC
Mission scientists created this “departure movie” from 14 different images taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/NOAO
An evocative new image sequence from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft offers a departing view of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) nicknamed Ultima Thule – the target of its New Year’s 2019 flyby and the most distant world ever explored.
These aren’t the last Ultima Thule images New Horizons will send back to Earth – in fact, many more are to come – but they are the final views New Horizons captured of the KBO (officially named 2014 MU69) as it raced away at over 50,000 kilometres (31,000 miles) per hour on 1 January 2019. The images were taken nearly 10 minutes after New Horizons crossed its closest approach point.
“This really is an incredible image sequence, taken by a spacecraft exploring a small world four billion miles away from Earth,” says mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas, United States. “Nothing quite like this has ever been captured in imagery.”
The newly released images also contain important scientific information about the shape of Ultima Thule, which is turning out to be ...