New Horizons is rushing away from Earth at over 30,000 miles per hour, quickly turning into probably the most distant objects people have ever launched. The spacecraft has already visited Pluto, the farthest world any mission has ever been to, and it’ll arrive at one other celestial physique on January 1, 2019. The goal this time is a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) referred to as MU69, which just received a new name from NASA: Ultima Thule.
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Late final yr, NASA ran a contest to name New Horizons’ next target. Over 34,000 names had been submitted, and NASA picked a winner from among the many high entries. In classical European mythology, Thule was a distant land to the North, and ‘ultima thule’ grew to become a time period used to discuss with a particularly faraway place past the explored world. It’s becoming, then, that Ultima Thule ought to discuss with essentially the most distant world visited by humanity.
“Our spacecraft is heading past the boundaries of the identified worlds, to what can be this mission’s subsequent achievement,” says New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern. “Since this would be the farthest exploration of any object in area in historical past, I wish to name our flyby goal Ultima, for brief, symbolizing this final exploration by NASA and our workforce.”
Once New Horizons makes its closest strategy to Ultima Thule on the primary day of 2019, it’ll have just a few hours to take pictures of the KBO earlier than it leaves it behind perpetually. The spacecraft will then spend the following a number of years sending these pictures again to Earth, the place scientists can be taught an ideal deal in regards to the mysterious objects orbiting within the distant reaches of our photo voltaic system.