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Topic: NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft

NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft takes Sharp Photos of Ultima Thule

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The mission team called it a “stretch goal” – just before closest approach, precisely pointing the cameras on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft to snap the sharpest possible pictures of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule, its New Year’s flyby target and the farthest object ever explored. 

Now that New Horizons has sent those stored flyby images back to Earth, the team can enthusiastically confirm that its ambitious goal was met. 

The most detailed images of Ultima Thule -- obtained just minutes before the spacecraft's closest approach at 12:33am EST on January 1st -- have a resolution of about 110 feet (33 meters) per pixel. (NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute, National Optical Astronomy Observatory)

The most detailed images of Ultima Thule — obtained just minutes before the spacecraft’s closest approach at 12:33am EST on January 1st — have a resolution of about 110 feet (33 meters) per pixel. (NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute, National Optical Astronomy Observatory)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft takes images of Ultima Thule as it leaves

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – 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 31,000 miles per hour (50,000 kilometers per hour) on January 1st. The images were taken nearly 10 minutes after New Horizons crossed its closest approach point.

New Horizons took this image of the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 (nicknamed Ultima Thule) on Jan. 1, 2019, when the NASA spacecraft was 5,494 miles (8,862 kilometers) beyond it. Mission scientists have been able to process the image, removing the motion blur to produce a sharper, brighter view of Ultima Thule’s thin crescent. (NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory)

New Horizons took this image of the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 (nicknamed Ultima Thule) on Jan. 1, 2019, when the NASA spacecraft was 5,494 miles (8,862 kilometers) beyond it. Mission scientists have been able to process the image, removing the motion blur to produce a sharper, brighter view of Ultima Thule’s thin crescent. (NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft takes detailed photos of Ultima Thule

 

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – Scientists from NASA’s New Horizons mission released the first detailed images of the most distant object ever explored — the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule. Its remarkable appearance, unlike anything we’ve seen before, illuminates the processes that built the planets four and a half billion years ago.

“This flyby is a historic achievement,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “Never before has any spacecraft team tracked down such a small body at such high speed so far away in the abyss of space. New Horizons has set a new bar for state-of-the-art spacecraft navigation.”

This image taken by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) is the most detailed of Ultima Thule returned so far by the New Horizons spacecraft. It was taken at 5:01 Universal Time on January 1, 2019, just 30 minutes before closest approach from a range of 18,000 miles (28,000 kilometers), with an original scale of 459 feet (140 meters) per pixel. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

This image taken by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) is the most detailed of Ultima Thule returned so far by the New Horizons spacecraft. It was taken at 5:01 Universal Time on January 1, 2019, just 30 minutes before closest approach from a range of 18,000 miles (28,000 kilometers), with an original scale of 459 feet (140 meters) per pixel. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Reaches Most Distant Target in History, Ultima Thule

 

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past Ultima Thule in the early hours of New Year’s Day, ushering in the era of exploration from the enigmatic Kuiper Belt, a region of primordial objects that holds keys to understanding the origins of the solar system.

“Congratulations to NASA’s New Horizons team, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the Southwest Research Institute for making history yet again,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

At left is a composite of two images taken by New Horizons' high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which provides the best indication of Ultima Thule's size and shape so far. Preliminary measurements of this Kuiper Belt object suggest it is approximately 20 miles long by 10 miles wide (32 kilometers by 16 kilometers). An artist's impression at right illustrates one possible appearance of Ultima Thule, based on the actual image at left. The direction of Ultima's spin axis is indicated by the arrows. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI; sketch courtesy of James Tuttle Keane)

At left is a composite of two images taken by New Horizons’ high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which provides the best indication of Ultima Thule’s size and shape so far. Preliminary measurements of this Kuiper Belt object suggest it is approximately 20 miles long by 10 miles wide (32 kilometers by 16 kilometers). An artist’s impression at right illustrates one possible appearance of Ultima Thule, based on the actual image at left. The direction of Ultima’s spin axis is indicated by the arrows. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI; sketch courtesy of James Tuttle Keane)

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NASA’s Lucy Spacecraft to explore Jupiter Trojan Asteroids

 

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA says that a little over 4 billion years ago, the planets in our solar system coexisted with vast numbers of small rocky or icy objects orbiting the Sun. These were the last remnants of the planetesimals – the primitive building blocks that formed the planets.

Most of these leftover objects were then lost, as shifts in the orbits of the giant planets scattered them to the distant outer reaches of the solar system or beyond. But some were captured in two less-distant regions, near points where the gravitational influence of Jupiter and the Sun balance, and have remained trapped there, mostly untouched, for billions of years.

Conceptual image of the NASA Lucy mission to the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. (NASA/SwRI)

Conceptual image of the NASA Lucy mission to the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. (NASA/SwRI)

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NASA explains why it’s important to study Space Rocks

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA says the entire history of human existence is a tiny blip in our solar system’s 4.5-billion-year history. No one was around to see planets forming and undergoing dramatic changes before settling in their present configuration. In order to understand what came before us — before life on Earth and before Earth itself — scientists need to hunt for clues to that mysterious distant past.

Those clues come in the form of asteroids, comets and other small objects. Like detectives sifting through forensic evidence, scientists carefully examine these small bodies for insights about our origins.

The small worlds of our solar system help us trace its history and evolution, including comets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD)

The small worlds of our solar system help us trace its history and evolution, including comets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD)

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NASA L’Ralph instrument to study Trojan Asteroids aboard Lucy Spacecraft

 

Written by Tamsyn Brann
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Ralph, one of the most well-traveled NASA space explorers, has voyaged far and accomplished much: on the New Horizons mission, Ralph obtained stunning flyby images of Jupiter and its moons; this was followed by a visit to Pluto where Ralph took the first high-definition pictures of the iconic minor planet. And, in 2021, Ralph journeys with the Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.

Ralph, however, is not an impossibly accomplished astronaut — it is a scientific instrument that has made many discoveries since it first launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006. Given a name and not an acronym, Ralph enables the study of the composition and atmospheres of celestial objects.

Illustration of the Lucy Spacecraft. (SwRI)

Illustration of the Lucy Spacecraft. (SwRI)

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe uses Venus gravity assist to get closer to the Sun

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On October 3rd, 2018, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe performed the first significant celestial maneuver of its seven-year mission. As the orbits of the spacecraft and Venus converged toward the same point, Parker Solar Probe slipped in front of the planet, allowing Venus’ gravity — relatively small by celestial standards — to twist its path and change its speed.

This maneuver, called a gravity assist, reduced Parker’s speed relative to the Sun by 10 percent — amounting to 7,000 miles per hour — drawing the closest point of its orbit, called perihelion, nearer to the star by 4 million miles.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe completed its first flyby of Venus on Oct. 3, 2018, during a Venus gravity assist, where the spacecraft used the planet's gravity to alter its trajectory and bring it closer to the Sun. (NASA/JHUAPL)

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its first flyby of Venus on Oct. 3, 2018, during a Venus gravity assist, where the spacecraft used the planet’s gravity to alter its trajectory and bring it closer to the Sun. (NASA/JHUAPL)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft sees its next target Ultima Thule

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has made its first detection of its next flyby target, the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule, more than four months ahead of its New Year’s 2019 close encounter.

Mission team members were thrilled – if not a little surprised – that New Horizons’ telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) was able to see the small, dim object while still more than 100 million miles away, and against a dense background of stars. Taken August 16th, 2018 and transmitted home through NASA’s Deep Space Network over the following days, the set of 48 images marked the team’s first attempt to find Ultima with the spacecraft’s own cameras. 

The figure on the left is a composite image produced by adding 48 different exposures from the News Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), each with an exposure time of 29.967 seconds, taken on Aug. 16, 2018. The predicted position of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule is at the center of the yellow box, and is indicated by the yellow crosshairs, just above and left of a nearby star that is approximately 17 times brighter than Ultima. At right is a magnified view of the region in the yellow box. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

The figure on the left is a composite image produced by adding 48 different exposures from the News Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), each with an exposure time of 29.967 seconds, taken on Aug. 16, 2018. The predicted position of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule is at the center of the yellow box, and is indicated by the yellow crosshairs, just above and left of a nearby star that is approximately 17 times brighter than Ultima. At right is a magnified view of the region in the yellow box. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft takes farthest image ever made from Earth

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently turned its telescopic camera toward a field of stars, snapped an image – and made history.

The routine calibration frame of the “Wishing Well” galactic open star cluster, made by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on December 5th, was taken when New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers, or 40.9 astronomical units) from Earth – making it, for a time, the farthest image ever made from Earth.

With its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), New Horizons has observed several Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) and dwarf planets at unique phase angles, as well as Centaurs at extremely high phase angles to search for forward-scattering rings or dust. These December 2017 false-color images of KBOs 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 are, for now, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. They're also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

With its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), New Horizons has observed several Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) and dwarf planets at unique phase angles, as well as Centaurs at extremely high phase angles to search for forward-scattering rings or dust. These December 2017 false-color images of KBOs 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 are, for now, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. They’re also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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