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Ultima Thule: Nasa prepares to explore the most remote world that humanity has ever investigated

Scientists at NASA are preparing to fly across Ultima Thule, the farthest part of the universe that humanity has explored

On New Year's Day, investigations between planets New Horizons will pass only 2,200 miles of objects that are a billion miles farther away from Earth than Pluto, a dwarf planet far in the Kuiper belt which itself is four billion miles away from us. It will be two years to send all the data back to the object officially known as MU69 2014, but dubbed Ultima Thule, a Latin phrase meaning "& # 39; outside the known world boundary".

Alan Stern, the mission's principal investigator, said that on December 15, the team had decided there were no rings or months on the New Horizons track.

"I told NASA that we" went "to fly by Ultima on a track that produced the best knowledge," he wrote on the NASA website.

"As a result, the New Horizon will approach 3,500 kilometers (about 2,200 miles) from Ultima at the start of the New Year. There is no longer a possibility that we will shift to a more distant flight, resulting in lower resolution images. "

He added: "What will Ultima say? No one knows. For me, that is the most interesting – this is pure exploration and fundamental science. "

NASA launched New Horizons in 2006. The size of a baby grand piano, flying past Pluto in 2015, provides the first close-up view of the dwarf planet.

The Associated Press said that with the success of flying behind them, mission planners won an extension from NASA to direct their gaze at destinations far inside the Kuiper Belt. So far, Pluto is barely in the Kuiper Belt, called the "twilight zone" that stretches beyond Neptune.

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Apart from how far it is, little is known about Ultima Thule. Indeed, it was not until 2014 that Marc Buie, co-researcher at New Horizons of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and others discovered Ultima using the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014.

In 2016, the researchers determined the color red. In 2017, the NASA campaign using ground-based telescopes tracked its size – only about 20 miles – and irregular shape when passing in front of a star, an event called "star occultation," the AP added.

Mr Stern said flyby – scheduled to take place at 12:33 EST on January 1 – will provide a large amount of information. "New Horizons will map Ultima, map its surface composition, determine how many months it has and find out if it has a ring or even atmosphere," he wrote.

“It will make other studies, too, such as measuring Ultima’s temperature and perhaps even its mass. In the space of one 72-hour period, Ultima will be transformed from a pinpoint of light — a dot in the distance — to a fully explored world. It should be breathtaking.”

He said that close approach images other kinds of data will already start to flow from New Horizons on flyby day.

“We expect to have an image with almost 10,000 pixels on Ultima by that night, ready for release on January 2,” he said.

“By that first week of January we expect to have even better images and a good idea of whether Ultima has satellites, rings or an atmosphere.”

Deputy project scientist Cathy Olkin, also of the Southwest Research Institute, said: “From Ultima’s orbit, we know that it is the most primordial object ever explored. I’m excited to see the surface features of this small world.”

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