View Full Version : Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM) (Ex New Horizons)

2016-Apr-22, 05:10 AM
A proposal has been submitted to NASA to extend the New Horizon mission to conduct a flyby of at least one more Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) and last until 2021. The mission to be called Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM).


This new mission has been dubbed “KEM,” or Kuiper Belt Extended Mission. There are many other small bodies in the Kuiper Belt besides Pluto, and mission scientists would love to be able to visit some of them as well. Pluto has already turned out to be more geologically active than anticipated, so what about some of these other ones? Granted, they are all smaller than Pluto, but being able to compare some of them directly with Pluto and its moons would be invaluable.

Cover of the March 18, 2016 edition of the journal Science featuring results from the New Horizons mission so far. Image Credit: AAAS/Science

The next close flyby would be of a KBO called 2014 MU69, on Jan. 1, 2019. This flyby has been discussed before, but now would be part of a larger extended mission plan. 2014 MU69 is much smaller than Pluto, only about 21 to 40 kilometres (13 to 25 miles) across (similar in size to Mars’ two tiny moons), but New Horizons would fly past at a distance of only about 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles), four times closer than the Pluto flyby. New Horizons has already completed four necessary course corrections to put it on the right path to 2014 MU69.

2016-May-19, 03:19 AM
Approval has yet to be given for the extension of the New Horizon but we already have learned more of one more member of the Kuiper Belt - 1994 JR1

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20160518-2&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NewHorizonsHeadlines+%28New+H orizons+News+Feed%29

Warming up for a possible extended mission as it speeds through deep space, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has now twice observed 1994 JR1, a 90-mile (145-kilometer) wide Kuiper Belt object (KBO) orbiting more than 3 billion miles (5 billion kilometers) from the sun. Science team members have used these observations to reveal new facts about this distant remnant of the early solar system.

Taken with the spacecraft's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on April 7-8 from a distance of about 69 million miles (111 million kilometers), the images shatter New Horizons' own record for the closest-ever views of this KBO in November 2015, when New Horizons detected JR1 from 170 million miles (280 million kilometers) away.

Simon Porter, a New Horizons science team member from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, said the observations contain several valuable findings. "Combining the November 2015 and April 2016 observations allows us to pinpoint the location of JR1 to within 1,000 kilometers (about 600 miles), far better than any small KBO," he said, adding that the more accurate orbit also allows the science team to dispel a theory, suggested several years ago, that JR1 is a quasi-satellite of Pluto.

2016-Sep-03, 04:06 PM
It has since taken pictures of one of Pluto's pals - Quaoar.


Now more than a year after its historic flyby of Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft continues to speed through the Kuiper Belt. It’s currently on a beeline towards its next target of exploration, a KBO called 2014 MU69. But during its travels, New Horizons spotted another KBO, one of Pluto’s pals, Quaoar.

When these images were taken (in July 2016), Quaoar was approximately 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) from the Sun and 1.3 billion miles (2.1 billion kilometers) from New Horizons.

The animated sequence, above, (click the image if it isn’t animating in your browser) shows composite images taken by New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at four different times over July 13-14: “A” on July 13 at 02:00 Universal Time; “B” on July 13 at 04:08 UT; “C” on July 14 at 00:06 UT; and “D” on July 14 at 02:18 UT. The New Horizons team explained that each composite includes 24 individual LORRI images, providing a total exposure time of 239 seconds and making the faint object easier to see.

Quaoar ( pronounced like “Kwa-war”) is about 690 miles or 1,100 kilometers in diameter, about half the size of Pluto. It was discovered on June 4, 2002 by astronomers Mike Brown and Chad Trujillo from Caltech, and at the time its discovery, it was the largest object found in the Solar System since the discovery of Pluto. Quaoar’s discovery was one of the things that spurred the discussion of whether Pluto should continue to be classified as a planet or not.

2016-Dec-23, 09:23 AM
Alan Stern on what New Horizon has done and what it is hoping to do.

http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/PI-Perspectives.php?page=piPerspective_12_22_2016&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NewHorizonsHeadlines+%28New+H orizons+News+Feed%29

As 2016 ends, I can't help but point out an interesting symmetry in where the mission has recently been and where we are going. Exactly two years ago we had just taken New Horizons out of cruise hibernation to begin preparations for the Pluto flyby. And exactly two years from now we will be on final approach to our next flyby, which will culminate with a very close approach to a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) called 2014 MU69 – a billion miles farther out than Pluto – on Jan. 1, 2019. Just now, as 2016 ends, we are at the halfway point between those two milestones.

2017-Jan-09, 06:03 PM
More information on 2014 MU69 the new target for New Horizons.


"Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69 – located approximately 1.6 billion km (1 billion mi) beyond Pluto – was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope on 26 June 2014 during a dedicated survey of the sky and portion of the Kuiper Belt along New Horizons’ post-Pluto trajectory to find potential targets for the craft to encounter after Pluto."

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2017-Jan-23, 05:58 AM
New Horizons is getting ready for its next big adventure


"Nearly two years after its historic encounter with the dwarf planet Pluto, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is getting ready for its next big adventure in the icy outskirts of the solar system.

Now, the spacecraft is on its way to a small, ancient object located about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto in the Kuiper Belt. This distant region surrounds the solar system and is filled with trillions of icy rocks that have yet to be explored. The new target was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in June 2014, and it was dubbed 2014 MU69."

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2017-Feb-03, 11:11 PM
The objectives of the Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM) are laid out in the next article.


"The journey to 2014 MU69 is part of the Kuiper Belt Extended Mission (KEM), the main objectives of which include:

Make distant flyby observations of about 20 other KBOs during 2016-2020, determining their shapes, satellite populations, and surface properties – something no other mission or ground-based telescope can.
Make sensitive searches for rings around a wide variety of KBOs during 2016-2020.
Conduct a heliospheric transect of the Kuiper Belt, making nearly continuous plasma, dust, and neutral gas observations from 2016 to 2021, when the spacecraft reaches 50 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun.
Potentially conduct astrophysical cruise science in 2020 and 2021, after the MU69 flyby, if NASA desires.

With KEM, New Horizons’ mission would be extended until at least 2021."

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2017-Feb-12, 02:58 AM
New Horizon went into safe mode due to a command loading error but is now on the way to full recovery.


"NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is operating normally after just over 24 hours in a protective "safe mode," the result of a command-loading error that occurred early Thursday. The spacecraft is designed to automatically transition to safe mode under certain anomalous conditions to protect itself from harm. In safe mode, the spacecraft suspends its timeline of activities and keeps its antenna pointed toward Earth to listen for instructions from the Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland."

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2017-Feb-17, 10:17 PM
At least all the Pluto data is all safely back.

2017-Apr-04, 09:52 AM
New Horizons is half way to its target. It is still too far to actually take any pictures of its target but the scientist have been taking pictures of the area where they expect the target to be, come 1st January 2019.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_Horizons_Halfway_from_Pluto_to_Next_Flyby_Targ et_999.html

How time and our spacecraft fly - especially when you're making history at 32,000 miles (51,500 kilometers) per hour. Continuing on its path through the outer regions of the solar system, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has now traveled half the distance from Pluto - its storied first target - to 2014 MU69, the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) it will fly past on Jan. 1, 2019.
The spacecraft reached that milestone at midnight (UTC) on April 3 - or 8 p.m. ET on April 2 - when it was 486.19 million miles (782.45 million kilometers) beyond Pluto and the same distance from MU69.
"It's fantastic to have completed half the journey to our next flyby; that flyby will set the record for the most distant world ever explored in the history of civilization," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

2017-May-26, 10:40 AM
In the next 6 weeks the New Horizon mission team hope to gleam some critical information on their next target 2014 MU69.


"But over the next six weeks, the New Horizons mission team gets an "MU69" preview of sorts – and a chance to gather some critical encounter-planning information – with a rare look at their target object from Earth.

On June 3, and then again on July 10 and July 17, MU69 will occult – or block the light from – three different stars, one on each date. To observe the June 3 "stellar occultation," more than 50 team members and collaborators are deploying along projected viewing paths in Argentina and South Africa. They'll fix camera-equipped portable telescopes on the occultation star and watch for changes in its light that can tell them much about MU69 itself."

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2017-Jul-22, 09:44 AM
And on their 3rd try :rimshot: success :clap: . Here is a report by Emily Lakdawalla.


After a world-spanning effort, the New Horizons team has successfully observed the tiny target of its future exploration dimming a distant star. Alejandro Soto blogged last month about the challenges of observing a stellar occultation of a very small, incredibly distant object on a (relatively speaking) uncertain orbit. The team reported two weeks ago that the first attempts at observing 2014 MU69 were unsuccessful. But in the third try, on July 17, astronomers in Argentina saw the telltale sign of MU69's presence: a stellar wink.

2017-Aug-04, 10:05 AM
Initial results from the stellar occultation hint that 2014 MU69 might be two objects close together.


Could the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft actually be two targets?

New Horizons scientists look to answer that question as they sort through new data gathered on the distant Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69, which the spacecraft will fly past on Jan. 1, 2019. That flyby will be the most distant in the history of space exploration, a billion miles beyond Pluto.

2017-Sep-07, 04:12 PM
New Horizon is hoping to fly about 3,500 kilometers from 2014 MU69.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_Horizons_Files_Flight_Plan_for_2019_Flyby_999. html

NASA's New Horizons mission has set the distance for its New Year's Day 2019 flyby of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, aiming to come three times closer to MU69 than it famously flew past Pluto in 2015.

That milestone will mark the farthest planetary encounter in history - some one billion miles (1.5 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto and more than four billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from Earth. If all goes as planned, New Horizons will come to within just 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) of MU69 at closest approach, peering down on it from celestial north.

The alternate plan, to be employed in certain contingency situations such as the discovery of debris near MU69, would take New Horizons within 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometers)- still closer than the 7,800-mile (12,500-kilometer) flyby distance to Pluto.

2017-Dec-07, 02:50 PM
An article on why we are interested on learning more on 2014 MU69.


On Jan. 1, 2019 the spacecraft will fly by MU69, and we have little idea what we will find. MU69 is small, less than 50 miles across, and dark like charcoal. There is some evidence it has a strange shape. It may even be two smaller objects in a tight orbit around each other.

Does MU69 have active geology? We don’t think so because it is so small. Does it have an atmosphere? Probably not, for the same reason. MU69’s importance lies in a different field of science, and that is the study of origins.

We have strong reasons to believe that MU69 is very, very old. It might be as old as the Earth. But unlike the Earth, whose surface is continually being modified by water and weather, MU69 has not changed since it was formed 4.56 billion years ago. That makes MU69 a treasure chest in the study of origins. MU69 will hold clues to what our solar system was like during the time period when the planets were forming. In fact, it may be an example of the very type of objects that formed the planets.

2017-Dec-07, 03:07 PM
And here is Alan Stern on New Horizon.


New Horizons is in good health and cruising closer each day to its next encounter: a flyby of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69 (or "MU69" for short). If you follow our mission, you likely know that flyby will occur on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day 2019, which is just barely over a year from now!

As I write this, New Horizons is wrapping up an active period that began when the spacecraft emerged from hibernation mode in September. But soon, on Dec. 21, we'll put the spacecraft back in hibernation, where it will remain until June 4, 2018. After June 4 the spacecraft will stay "awake" until late in 2020, long after the MU69 flyby, when all of the data from that flyby have reached Earth.

2017-Dec-11, 03:05 PM
New Horizons corrects its course.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_Horizons_Corrects_Its_Course_in_the_Kuiper_Bel t_999.html

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft carried out a short, 2.5-minute engine burn on Saturday, Dec. 9 that refined its course toward 2014 MU69, the ancient Kuiper Belt object it will fly by a little more than a year from now.

Setting a record for the farthest spacecraft course correction to date, the engine burn also adjusted the arrival time at MU69 to optimize flyby science.

Telemetry confirming that the maneuver went as planned reached the New Horizons mission operations center around 1 p.m. EST at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, via NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) stations in Goldstone, California. The radio signals carrying the data traveled over 3.8 billion miles (6.1 billion kilometers) and took five hours and 41 minutes to reach Earth at the speed of light.

2017-Dec-15, 02:19 AM
2014 MU69 is small - no more than 20 miles wide - but it may have a small moon!


"In just over a year, a NASA spacecraft will visit a tiny world at the edge of the solar system. Now that tiny object appears to have an even tinier moon, scientists announced on Tuesday.

The object, known as 2014 MU69, is small, no more than 20 miles wide, but planetary scientists hope that it will turn out to be an ancient and pristine fragment from the earliest days of the solar system.

The moon, if it exists, might be about three miles wide, circling at a distance of about 120 miles from MU69, completing an orbit every two to four weeks, estimated Marc W. Buie, an astronomer at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo."

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2018-Jan-25, 07:25 AM
Emily Lakdawalla gives some of the highlights from New Horizons team recent meeting.


Somewhere in the dense star field in front of the New Horizons spacecraft, an invisible object is hiding. Throughout 2018, New Horizons will arrow toward 2014 MU69, whiffing past at 05:33 on January 1, 2019 (UTC). The small team of scientists and engineers working on New Horizons' Kuiper-belt extended mission has already laid out its plans for the encounter. Fine details will change as the team updates and improves its knowledge of the size, shape, and location of 2014 MU69 and any satellites, but the outline of the encounter has been fixed.

The team's most recent meeting took place last week, timed for the 12th anniversary of the spacecraft's launch. Mission management and engineers checked in on spacecraft status, and scientists summarized what they currently know about New Horizons' flyby target and how they plan to study it this year. Following are some of the highlights from the meeting and an overview of the future of the mission. Get yourself a beverage and settle in; this is a long update with lots of news. This post is not one of my "what to expect" articles with a detailed timeline of observation plans and Earth communication dates and simulated images of what we might see on what day. It's not quite time for that yet. I hope to be able to write and post that article in June.

2018-Feb-10, 09:46 AM
New Horizons keeps breaking records as it speeds away from us.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_Horizons_captures_record_breaking_images_in_th e_Kuiper_Belt_999.html

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 Dec. 5, 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.

2018-Mar-01, 10:16 AM
Alan Stern, answers the question, why the Voyagers didn't explore the Kuiper Belt? One answer, The Kuiper Belt was only discovered in 1992!

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/The_PIs_Perspective_Why_Didnt_Voyager_Explore_the_ Kuiper_Belt_999.html

A role of all NASA mission principal investigators is to communicate with the public. I typically give 20 to 30 public New Horizons talks per year, and a question I used to get a lot is whether Voyager could have explored Pluto. I addressed that really interesting question in this column in June 2014, shortly before our Pluto encounter began.

Now people often ask why the Voyagers didn't explore the Kuiper Belt, since both Voyager 1 and 2 clearly transited this region after passing the giant planets. That's a really good question with a number of facets, so I thought I'd address it in this PI Perspective.

2018-Mar-13, 03:27 PM
New Horizon now have a nick name for their next target - "Ultima Thule" (pronounced ultima thoo-lee").

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_Horizons_Chooses_Nickname_for_Ultimate_Flyby_T arget_999.html

As NASA's New Horizons mission continues exploring the unknown, the mission team has selected a highly appropriate nickname for its next flyby target in the outer reaches of the solar system.

With substantial public input, the team has chosen "Ultima Thule" (pronounced ultima thoo-lee") for the Kuiper Belt object the New Horizons spacecraft will explore on Jan. 1, 2019. Officially known as 2014 MU69, the object, which orbits a billion miles beyond Pluto, will be the most primitive world ever observed by spacecraft - in the farthest planetary encounter in history.

Thule was a mythical, far-northern island in medieval literature and cartography. Ultima Thule means "beyond Thule"- beyond the borders of the known world-symbolizing the exploration of the distant Kuiper Belt and Kuiper Belt objects that New Horizons is performing, something never before done.

"MU69 is humanity's next Ultima Thule," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

2018-Jun-05, 02:45 AM
New Horizons is awake and looking forward for its next target:D


The New Horizons spacecraft has come out of hibernation to begin preparations for its January 2019 flyby of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69, nicknamed “Ultima Thule”. The flyby, set to occur in the early morning of January 1, 2019, will be the second for New Horizons, following its historic 2015 Pluto flyby. It will also be the furthest flyby from Earth ever performed by a spacecraft.

2018-Aug-14, 03:09 PM
We expected the next exciting findings by New Horizon will be its next target but it has managed to surprise us.


At the edge of the solar system, right before reaching interstellar space, robotic probes are still finding undiscovered mysteries. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which is speeding on from its 2015 encounter with Pluto to study an object in the distant Kuiper Belt, appears to have detected what scientists are calling an interstellar "hydrogen wall."

The space barrier was detected with New Horizons' instrument Alice, a compact ultraviolet imaging telescope and spectrometer. Alice's main goal on the New Horizons mission was to gather information on the atmospheric conditions of Pluto.

But scientists are now using Alice to study the edges of the solar system, and the instrument detected an ultraviolet light source in the distance. In a new paper published in Geophysical Research Letters, New Horizons scientists suggest that the light is scattered by a wall of hydrogen. It is "best explained if the observed ultraviolet light is not only a result of the scattering of sunlight by hydrogen atoms within the solar system, but includes a substantial contribution from a distant source," says the paper.

2018-Aug-30, 12:55 PM
First look at Ultima Thule:D (as they say "the fun has just begun")


From more than 100 million miles away, New Horizon's next target barely looks like anything at all.

The object, known as Ultima Thule, has only just now come into view for that NASA spacecraft's sensitive cameras, allowing the probe — which brought us never-before-seen, close-up photos of Pluto in July 2015 — to take its first-ever images of the distant world.

2018-Sep-06, 01:56 PM
Update on the mission.


More than 12 years after launch, New Horizons continues to be healthy, perform well, and speed across the outer solar system at a clip of nearly 1 million miles per day!

Since I last wrote, earlier this year, our flight team has been incredibly busy operating our spacecraft and planning for our next flyby. That work includes conducting mission simulations and preparing contingency plans for handling more than 250 separate possible anomalies on the spacecraft or in mission control that could jeopardize flyby success.

Now, as September opens, our journey from Pluto to our next flyby target, a Kuiper Belt object nicknamed "Ultima Thule" (a Latin phrase, pronounced "ultima toolee" and meaning "beyond the farthest frontiers") is 90 percent complete.

2018-Oct-02, 03:54 PM
"NASA's New Horizons science team recently wrapped up a three-day rehearsal of the busiest days around the mission's Dec. 31- Jan. 1 flyby of Ultima Thule, a Kuiper Belt object orbiting a billion miles beyond Pluto."

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_Horizons_Team_Rehearses_For_New_Years_Flyby_99 9.html

The team held several similar tests leading up to the historic flyby of Pluto in July 2015.

"This was our science team's final exam," said Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. "and they passed it with flying colors - meaning we're ready for the Ultima flyby coming almost exactly 100 days from now!"

Grant Hatch
2018-Dec-08, 09:15 PM
Here is a link and an excerpt from Astronomy magazine describing the new mission after the Pluto flyby....


"The Kuiper Belt and MU69

The discovery of the Kuiper Belt in the 1990s transformed the understanding of our home solar system. This breakthrough rewrote the textbooks about the solar system’s geography, showing the planetary realm is not simply a two-zone system of inner planets and outer planets, but a three-zone system with inner planets surrounded by a region of gas giants, which are surrounded by a wide disk containing comets, planetary building blocks called planetesimals, and a bevy of small planets like Pluto.

With the discovery of the Kuiper Belt, the gas giants were relegated from being the “outer planets” of old to being the planets of the middle solar system. The discovery also revolutionized our understanding of the population structure of the solar system, showing Pluto is not a lone misfit world beyond the giant planets but instead the first known member of a large population of small planets that dwarf the number of terrestrial and giant planets combined.

The New Horizons team found MU69 during a dedicated search for post-Pluto flyby targets using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 2014. MU69 hasn’t received a name beyond its discovery designation yet, but it’s coming, through a public naming contest that the New Horizons project and NASA conducted in late 2017.

MU69 travels in a nearly circular, 296-year-long orbit centered at 44.4 astronomical units. (An astronomical unit is the average distance between the Sun and Earth.) Its orbit inclines just 2.5° relative to the plane of the solar system. Astronomers now know MU69’s orbit well enough that it has received an official minor planet number, 486958, from the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center.

Because MU69 is so faint (at an apparent visual magnitude of 26.8), little is known about it other than its diameter, which is between 12 and 25 miles (20 and 40 kilometers), and its color, which is somewhat redder than Pluto. MU69 belongs to a Kuiper Belt subpopulation called cold classical KBOs — ancient objects that have always been members of the Kuiper Belt. They are distinct from other KBO subpopulations that formed among the giant planets and then were ejected to the Kuiper Belt. Because MU69 formed in situ in the Kuiper Belt, it represents a highly valuable, “bedrock” sample of the material in the solar nebula at its great distance from the Sun.

MU69 possesses another valuable trait: Its diameter falls nicely between comets, which typically are a couple of miles across, and small outer solar system planets like Pluto — 600 to 1,500 miles (1,000 to 2,500 km) across. Comparing MU69’s surface features, interior structure, and composition with smaller and larger bodies from the Kuiper Belt will allow us to better understand the accretion processes that built small planets there, like Pluto, Quaoar, Orcus, Ixion, Eris, and Sedna.

Many small KBOs have satellites, but we do not yet know definitively whether MU69 does, though results from stellar occultations last summer indicate it could be a binary. And because MU69 is so faint, even the largest telescopes on Earth or in Earth orbit cannot study it spectroscopically, so its composition is completely unknown.
New Horizons is racing through the Kuiper Belt to rendezvous with MU69 on January 1, 2019. This plot shows the positions of the spacecraft and solar system objects on November 1, 2017.
Astronomy: Roen Kelly
Challenges ahead

In October and November 2015, shortly after our exploration of Pluto, we fired the engines aboard New Horizons to retarget its trajectory to intercept MU69. That flyby will take place January 1, 2019, less than a year from now."

2018-Dec-09, 10:13 AM
Last post moved here from the Citizen Science section, thread title edited to include New Horizons for easier searching.

And, while searching for this thread, I found another post with some links to papers about MU69 here (https://forum.cosmoquest.org/showthread.php?123740-Fun-Papers-In-Arxiv&p=2457005#post2457005) in the astronomy forum.

2018-Dec-09, 10:32 AM
With Ultima Thule clearly in its sight, New Horizons does another course correction.


With just 29 days to go before making space exploration history, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft performed a short but record-setting course-correction maneuver on Dec. 2 that refined its path toward Ultima Thule, the Kuiper Belt object it will fly by on Jan. 1.

Just as the exploration of Ultima Thule will be the farthest-ever flyby of a planetary body, Sunday's maneuver was the most distant trajectory correction ever made. At 8:55 a.m. EST, New Horizons fired its small thrusters for 105 seconds, adjusting its velocity by just over 1 meter per second, or about 2.2 miles per hour. Data from the spacecraft confirming the successful maneuver reached the New Horizons Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, through NASA's Deep Space Network, at 5:15 p.m. EST.

The maneuver was designed to keep New Horizons on track toward its ideal arrival time and closest distance to Ultima, just 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1.

2018-Dec-18, 09:21 AM
Emily Lakdawalla takes us through "What to Expect When New Horizons Visits 2014 MU69, Ultima Thule".


New Horizons is rapidly approaching its New Year’s encounter with the most distant world ever visited, 2014 MU69. Closest approach will be at a distance of 3,500 kilometers at about 05:33 on 1 January UTC, and it’ll happen at a zippy 14.16 kilometers per second. Space fans can’t wait to see pictures of this distant, tiny world, an ancient relic of the formation of our solar system, which the mission and NASA have nicknamed “Ultima Thule,” until it is formally named. (I think we should all get to give it our own nicknames. I'm partial to "Moo," or maybe "Peanut.")

We don’t have much idea what MU69 is going to look like. What we know about it so far is pretty limited. It’s probably about 20 to 35 kilometers across, roughly 10 times the diameter of Rosetta’s comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It seems to have a very irregular shape. It might be a binary (two objects orbiting close to each other) or bilobate (like 67P). Its surface is reddish. It might be a fragment of a bigger object, in which case it might have heated up a little after it formed, or it might actually have accreted to its current size, in which case it could show layers and agglomerations like 67P.

2018-Dec-18, 09:12 PM
I like "Moo".

2018-Dec-19, 06:54 AM
New Horizons to take a path bringing it within 3,500 kilometers of Ultima Thule.

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_Horizons_Takes_the_Inside_Course_to_Ultima_Thu le_999.html

With no apparent hazards in its way, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has been given a "go" to stay on its optimal path to Ultima Thule as it speeds closer to a Jan. 1 flyby of the Kuiper Belt object a billion miles beyond Pluto - the farthest planetary flyby in history.

After almost three weeks of sensitive searches for rings, small moons and other potential hazards around the object, New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern gave the "all clear" for the spacecraft to remain on a path that takes it about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) from Ultima, instead of a hazard-avoiding detour that would have pushed it three times farther out. With New Horizons blazing though space at some 31,500 miles (50,700 kilometers) per hour, a particle as small as a grain of rice could be lethal to the piano-sized probe.

2018-Dec-21, 01:21 PM
"Ultima Thule's First Mystery: Lack of a 'Light Curve'"

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Ultima_Thules_First_Mystery_Lack_of_a_Light_Curve_ 999.html

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is bearing down on Ultima Thule, its New Year's flyby target in the far away Kuiper Belt. Among its approach observations over the past three months, the spacecraft has been taking hundreds of images to measure Ultima's brightness and how it varies as the object rotates.

Those measurements have produced the mission's first mystery about Ultima. Even though scientists determined in 2017 that the Kuiper Belt object isn't shaped like a sphere - that it is probably elongated or maybe even two objects - they haven't seen the repeated pulsations in brightness that they'd expect from a rotating object of that shape. The periodic variation in brightness during every rotation produces what scientists refer to as a light curve.

"It's really a puzzle," said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute. "I call this Ultima's first puzzle - why does it have such a tiny light curve that we can't even detect it? I expect the detailed flyby images coming soon to give us many more mysteries, but I did not expect this, and so soon."

2018-Dec-23, 03:10 PM
New Horizons, has carried out its last trajectory correction maneuver, on approach to Ultima Thule last week, to bring it within 2,200 miles of Ultima Thule.


New Horizons carried out its last trajectory correction maneuver on approach to Ultima Thule last week, a short thruster burst to direct the spacecraft closer to its precise flyby aim point just 2,200 miles (3,500) above the mysterious Kuiper Belt object at 12:33 am EST on Jan. 1.

At 7:53 a.m. EST on Dec. 18, New Horizons fired its small thrusters for just 27 seconds, a 0.26 meter-per-second adjustment that corrected about 180 miles (300 kilometers) of estimated targeting error and sped up the arrival time at Ultima by about five seconds. Data from the spacecraft confirming the successful maneuver reached the New Horizons Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, through NASA's Deep Space Network, at 4:34 p.m. EST the same day.

2018-Dec-23, 04:54 PM
I like "Moo".

I do have some issues taking the Ultima Thule name seriously since in Sweden it is the name of a well known White Power(-ish) rock band that often made the headlines in the late 80s/early 90s.

2018-Dec-23, 11:29 PM
The first flyby of a Kuiper Belt object - what a great time to be alive!

I was a teenager when NH was launched and have followed almost half of my life. It's amazing to think we'll get some super high res images of Ultima in a week!

2018-Dec-24, 01:07 AM
The first flyby of a Kuiper Belt object - what a great time to be alive!

I was a teenager when NH was launched and have followed almost half of my life. It's amazing to think we'll get some super high res images of Ultima in a week!

Isn't Pluto considered a KBO these days, making this the second flyby? Still extremely cool. I didn't realize the next encounter was to be so soon. We really do live in the future.

2018-Dec-24, 01:43 AM
Isn't Pluto considered a KBO these days, making this the second flyby? Still extremely cool. I didn't realize the next encounter was to be so soon. We really do live in the future.

Yes, my mistake, Pluto is technically a KBO. This makes it the flyby of the furthest object ever (to keep the theme of using superlatives).

2018-Dec-26, 02:51 PM
"Encounters with Distant Worlds: An Interview with New Horizons' Alan Stern (Exclusive)"


NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is on track for a Jan. 1 flyby of Ultima Thule, a distant Kuiper Belt object that lies 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto.
The encounter will be the farthest planetary flyby in history. What New Horizons will see is a mystery, and mission principal investigator Alan Stern is prepared for puzzlement.

The stalwart, piano-size probe — designed, built and operated by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland — already has one exploration milestone under its belt: it zoomed past Pluto in July 2015. [NASA's New Horizons Mission in Pictures]

Stern, who's based at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, literally wrote the book on that mission, along with astrobiologist David Grinspoon — "Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto" (Picador, 2018).

Space.com caught up with Stern recently to talk about New Horizons and the imminent record-setting flyby of Ultima Thule, which scientists think is about 23 miles (37 km) wide.

2019-Jan-01, 01:50 PM
"Mysterious deep space world Ultima Thule already looks weird — and we've only had a glimpse"


Ultima Thule — an uncharted world over 4 billion miles away — is coming into view.

On Monday, planetary scientists released a fuzzy image of Ultima Thule, snapped the day prior by the New Horizons exploration spacecraft from some 1.2 million miles away. Previously, New Horizons swooped by Pluto in 2015, capturing the icy, mountainous world in unprecedented detail.

Increasingly rich, detailed images of Ultima will start arriving on January 2, but already the deep space object looks elongated, not round, said New Horizons deputy project scientist John Spencer from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, the Maryland headquarters of the New Horizons program. The program is a collaborative effort between NASA, the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, where scientists navigate and control the spacecraft.

"It’s the first glimpse of what's going to get rapidly better from here on — it’s our first taste," Spencer said.

2019-Jan-01, 03:58 PM
I just finished watching NASA live and the spacecraft is operating nominally and will be sending data captured during the flyby for the next 20 months. There was no indication of when the first images will be received.

2019-Jan-01, 04:26 PM
Data transmission starts later today including “failsafe” imagery. Keep an eye on Emily Lakdawalla’s twitter feed for updates.

I recall reading that the better imagery will show up on Thursday.

The NH images are not sent directly to the web but go through JPL and NASA.


ETA: Flyby “what to expect” story:


2019-Jan-02, 01:59 AM
Emily Lakdawalla with new year wishes and an artist's impression of Ultima Thule.


New Horizons has "phoned home" as expected, 4 hours after its closest approach to 2014 MU69. Its brief transmission contained no science data, but gave the scientists welcome news: the spacecraft data recorders were exactly as full as expected, and the spacecraft systems all perfectly healthy. We still won't know until science data transmission begins this afternoon if the pointing of the spacecraft was on target, but all signs are good. New Horizons has successfully pulled off the most distant flyby ever.

They released one more image today, the last one returned before the encounter. It's still just a blob, but we now can say that the object is bilobate and about 35 by 15 kilometers. It could still be two distinct objects orbiting very close to each other, but is more likely a single object with two lobes -- like comets Halley, Borrelly, Hartley 2, and Churyumov-Gerasimenko -- a common shape in the solar system. Space science artist James Tuttle Keane provided the mission with a sketch of its likely appearance.

2019-Jan-03, 01:54 AM
Emily Lakdawalla on how contact binary form.


This is a textbook example of a contact binary. Binary means two objects, of course, and contact means that they’re in contact with each other. Separated binaries are very common in the solar system and especially common in the Kuiper belt. But how can a contact binary form? Is it even plausible for two mutually orbiting bodies to somehow come together so gently and just stick to each other while preserving their originally round shape over billions of years?

Solar system formation theorists have been considering this problem for a long time, because bi-lobed worlds are actually the commonest shape among cometary nuclei. The first comet we ever saw up close, 1P/Halley, has that shape. So do 19P/Borrelly, 103P/Hartley 2, and -- an extreme case -- 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the comet visited by Rosetta. Other comets imaged by radar seem to have that shape, too. Thanks to Daniel Macháček for this marvelous montage. Churyumov-Gerasimenko is in the upper left corner, in all its capybara-esque cuteness.

2019-Jan-03, 10:03 PM
I never thought about how common contact binaries are among comet nuclei. Very cool.

2019-Jan-04, 08:39 PM
About two years to get all the data back.

Any other targets being talked about?

They don't want another pale blue dot--'cause might burn out the camera, or so I've heard.

2019-Jan-06, 03:31 AM
About two years to get all the data back.

Any other targets being talked about?

They don't want another pale blue dot--'cause might burn out the camera, or so I've heard.

Not sure why another pale blue dot is necessary. There's no scientific value, and any sort of sentimental value is already satisfied by the original photo or the one Cassini took.

2019-Jan-09, 11:33 AM
Although New Horizon is in a solar communication blackout period, both New Horizon and the team here on earth are being kept busy!


As New Horizons and its scientists prepare for the end of a solar conjunction in two days and the resumption of science data downlink from the craft of its historic flyby of 2014 MU69 on New Year’s Day, Alan Stern and his team are busy analyzing the first few datasets returned from the spacecraft before the solar conjunction began on 4 January.

Roger E. Moore
2019-Jan-10, 01:12 PM
1st look at Ultima Thule: 2 pages, 2 photos, brief initial results (1.5 MB).


Overview of initial results from the reconnaissance flyby of a Kuiper Belt planetesimal: 2014 MU69

S.A. Stern, et al. (Submitted on 9 Jan 2019)

The centerpiece objective of the NASA New Horizons first Kuiper Extended Mission (KEM-1) was the close flyby of the Kuiper Belt Object KBO) 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule. On 1 Jan 2019 this flyby culminated, making the first close observations of a small KBO. Initial post flyby trajectory reconstruction indicated the spacecraft approached to within 3536 km of MU69 at 5:33:19 UT. Here we summarize the earliest results obtained from that successful flyby. At the time of this submission, only 4 days of data down-link from the flyby were available; well over an order of magnitude more data will be down-linked by the time of this Lunar and Planetary Science Conference presentation in 2019 March. Therefore many additional results not available at the time of this abstract submission will be presented in this review talk.

Roger E. Moore
2019-Jan-10, 01:29 PM
A prediction for the results of the recon of Ultima Thule. Was he correct?


Ultima Thule: a Prediction for the Origin, Bulk Chemical Composition, and Physical Structure, submitted prior to the New Horizons Spacecraft 100 Pixel LORRI Data Return

Andrew J. R. Prentice (Submitted on 9 Jan 2019)

The 2019 January 01 flypast of Ultima Thule by the New Horizons spacecraft has provided the author with a new opportunity to test his gas ring model of planetary origin (Prentice, 1978, Moon Planets 19 341). The model proposes that Ultima Thule condensed from the first gas ring shed by the gravitationally contracting protosolar cloud. I use the fully quantified gas ring model to compute the thermal properties of the gas ring in which Ultima condensed and thence to predict the initial bulk chemical composition of the condensate. It is predicted that all KBOs initially contained large stores of CO2 ice and CH4 ices. These make up fractions 0.2210 and 0.0513 of the condensate mass, respectively. Water ice makes up a mass fraction 0.1845, nearly-dry rock has fraction 0.5269 and graphite has 0.0163. Next, I compute the thermal evolution of Ultima, taking into account the radiogenic heat released by the decay of 26Al. Stellar occultation data suggest that Ultima Thule may consist of 2 lobes of radius about 10 km and 7.5 km. The thermal evolution model shows that within 0.2 Myr, the peak internal temperatures are sufficient for a fraction ~0.7 of the CH4 ice in the larger lobe to melt and for a fraction ~0.4 of the CO2 ice to sublime. For the smaller lobe, these fractions are less. Liquid CH4 quickly migrates upwards to the surface and refreezes to form a thick outer shell of CH4 ice. The sublimation of CO2 takes place after the melting of CH4. The possibility now exists for rising CO2 vapour to become trapped beneath the CH4 shell. This may lead to explosive eruptions of the outer shell and destruction of the primordial surface of Ultima and loss of the CO2. If 60% of CO2 is lost, the lobe radii each shrinks by ~5%. Even so, the intensity of 26Al radiogenic heating may not be sufficient to render the surface of Ultima Thule globally smooth, unless the lobe sizes are of order ~15 km.

2019-Jan-11, 05:25 PM
New Horizons should be coming out of superior conjunction today. I'd be curious when we might see more images and at higher resolution. The initial image was just a tease!

2019-Jan-11, 05:33 PM
New Horizons should be coming out of superior conjunction today. I'd be curious when we might see more images and at higher resolution. The initial image was just a tease!

Hoe long do you expect the data to be received?

2019-Jan-11, 05:50 PM
How long do you expect the data to be received?

Long term, my understanding is that the science data will require the better part of a year to download. The last data from the July 2015 Pluto flyby was received in October 2016. But I thought I read that higher-res images would appear soon after leaving superior conjunction, "soon" being relative. From the JPL site:

The team will continue posting LORRI images within 24 hours of their receipt on the ground during the first two weeks of January 2019, provided NASA has approved their release. After that, images received at the New Horizons Science Operations Center through each Tuesday at 5 pm ET will be posted on the following Friday. The date/time in the image caption is when the picture was taken by the spacecraft, though receipt of the data on Earth could be many days later.

In addition, the fully validated and calibrated images will be made available at NASA's Planetary Data System within a year after receipt of all images on the ground. All images will be available to the public, but please refer to the official New Horizons Image Use Policy for guidance on their use and attribution.

Actually in re-reading that information it may be Friday, January 18, before we next see images. In any case the image release timing is controlled by NASA and the JPL.

2019-Jan-11, 07:39 PM
1st look at Ultima Thule: 2 pages, 2 photos, brief initial results (1.5 MB).


Overview of initial results from the reconnaissance flyby of a Kuiper Belt planetesimal: 2014 MU69

S.A. Stern, et al. (Submitted on 9 Jan 2019)

The centerpiece objective of the NASA New Horizons first Kuiper Extended Mission (KEM-1) was the close flyby of the Kuiper Belt Object KBO) 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule. On 1 Jan 2019 this flyby culminated, making the first close observations of a small KBO. Initial post flyby trajectory reconstruction indicated the spacecraft approached to within 3536 km of MU69 at 5:33:19 UT. Here we summarize the earliest results obtained from that successful flyby. At the time of this submission, only 4 days of data down-link from the flyby were available; well over an order of magnitude more data will be down-linked by the time of this Lunar and Planetary Science Conference presentation in 2019 March. Therefore many additional results not available at the time of this abstract submission will be presented in this review talk.

3536 km is pretty darn impressive. That's not much over half the radius of earth!

Roger E. Moore
2019-Jan-15, 01:53 PM
Science art anticipates real life.


Scientist anticipated "snowman" asteroid appearance
January 15, 2019 by Alan Fischer, Planetary Science Institute

[[article about artist/scientist Bill Hartmann, w/ art of "snowman" asteroids and Ultima Thule.]]

2019-Jan-15, 11:58 PM
New photos of Ultima Thule released.


New Horizons is back in action after going quiet for a period of solar conjunction following the 1 January flyby of 2014 MU69 (informally nicknamed "Ultima Thule"). The spacecraft is returning new data, as exemplified by these images, shared this morning in a tweet by principal investigator Alan Stern. The pictures were taken before closest approach and don't add anything much in the way of news about the world, but: new images, woohoo!!!

2019-Jan-17, 12:48 AM
New photos of Ultima Thule released.


Yes, although Alan Stern says higher res images will arrive in late February.


2019-Jan-20, 01:48 AM
"New Movie Shows Ultima Thule from an Approaching New Horizons"


This movie shows the propeller-like rotation of Ultima Thule in the nine hours between 20:00 UT (3 p.m. ET) on Dec. 31, 2018, and 05:01 UT (12:01 a.m.) on Jan. 1, 2019, as seen by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA's New Horizons as the spacecraft sped toward its close encounter with the Kuiper Belt object at 05:33 UT (12:33 a.m. ET) on Jan. 1.

During this deep-space photo shoot – part of the farthest planetary flyby in history – New Horizons' range to Ultima Thule decreased from 310,000 miles (500,000 kilometers, farther than the distance from the Earth to the Moon) to just 17,100 miles (28,000 kilometers), during which the images became steadily larger and more detailed. The team processed two different image sequences; the bottom sequence shows the images at their original relative sizes, while the top corrects for the changing distance, so that Ultima Thule (officially named 2014 MU69) appears at constant size but becomes more detailed as the approach progresses.

All the images have been sharpened using scientific techniques that enhance detail. The original image scale is 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) per pixel in the first frame, and 0.08 miles (0.14 kilometers) per pixel in the last frame. The rotation period of Ultima Thule is about 16 hours, so the movie covers little more than half a rotation. Among other things, the New Horizons science team will use these images to help determine the three-dimensional shape of Ultima Thule, in order to better understand its nature and origin.

2019-Jan-26, 06:59 AM
Ze latest from New Horizons on frosty the snowman taken from 4,200miles (6,700kms), 135m/pixel .. this time, apparently complete with a face including eyes, nostrils and a mouth!:


2019-Jan-26, 09:09 AM
Ze latest from New Horizons on frosty the snowman taken from 4,200miles (6,700kms), 135m/pixel .. this time, apparently complete with a face including eyes, nostrils and a mouth!:

When I first saw that picture for some reason I thought about Miranda, the inner most large moon of Uranus.

2019-Jan-26, 10:13 AM
When I first saw that picture for some reason I thought about Miranda, the inner most large moon of Uranus.Hmm .. maybe ..
I reckon the big dent (where the eyes are) looks a lot like Phobos' big ding here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stickney_(crater))(?) :)

Roger E. Moore
2019-Feb-05, 01:25 PM
More on our favorite snowman.


Ultima Thule (486958; 2014 MU69): Necklace, Composition, Rotation, Formation

J. I. Katz (Submitted on 4 Feb 2019)

Flyby images of Ultima Thule (486958; 2014 MU69) show a comparatively bright ``necklace'' between its two lobes, in contrast to its generally low albedo. The necklace is found in the most shaded, and therefore coolest, part of its surface. It may be clean, high albedo, ``hoarfrost'' condensed from vapor evaporated from the low albedo dirty ice elsewhere. Ammonia, the likely major constituent of Ultima Thule, has the necessary vapor pressure. The rotation period of 15±1 h is at least twice its breakup period, indicating either that its formation was not limited by angular momentum or that half its angular momentum was lost after formation, perhaps to surrounding gas in the proto-Solar System. The lobes of Ultima Thule must have spherized under conditions different than those encountered by its present, post-contact, configuration.

(Includes comparison with 1I/2017 U1 ‘Oumuamua.)

2019-Feb-12, 08:06 AM
Now they're saying that Ultima-Thule, is actually a pancake, not a snowman.

Roger E. Moore
2019-Feb-12, 02:38 PM
More on the "pancake" aspect of Ultima Thule, with drawings and photos. One of the lobes does look pretty flat, as measured by the blocking of starlight.


New Horizons' evocative farewell glance at Ultima Thule
February 9, 2019, NASA

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 Jan. 1. The images were taken nearly 10 minutes after New Horizons crossed its closest approach point.

2019-Feb-13, 01:23 PM
Scott Manley has a nice video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rD8eVMXfsK4) talking about why Ultima Thule may be the shape it is.

2019-Feb-23, 04:14 PM
Higher resolution images of Ultima Thule released by the New Horizons team:



New Horizons spacecraft returns its sharpest views of Ultima Thule
February 23, 2019, NASA

The mission team called it a "stretch goal" – just before closest approach, precisely point the cameras on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft to snap the sharpest possible pics 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.

These new images of Ultima Thule – obtained by the telephoto Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) just 6½ minutes before New Horizons' closest approach to the object (officially named 2014 MU69) at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1 – offer a resolution of about 110 feet (33 meters) per pixel. Their combination of high spatial resolution and a favorable viewing angle gives the team an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the surface, as well as the origin and evolution, of Ultima Thule – thought to be the most primitive object ever encountered by a spacecraft.


The higher resolution brings out a many surface features that weren't readily apparent in earlier images. Among them are several bright, enigmatic, roughly circular patches of terrain. In addition, many small, dark pits near the terminator (the boundary between the sunlit and dark sides of the body) are better resolved. "Whether these features are craters produced by impactors, sublimation pits, collapse pits, or something entirely different, is being debated in our science team," said John Spencer, deputy project scientist from SwRI.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2019-02-horizons-spacecraft-sharpest-views-ultima.html#jCp

2019-May-17, 11:58 AM
"First results from New Horizons’ time in the Kuiper Belt"


For many at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, January 1 this year didn't mean a New Year's celebration. Instead, it meant the first arrival of data from New Horizons' visit to a small Kuiper Belt object. But, like its earlier flyby of Pluto, the probe was instructed to grab all the data it could and deal with getting it back to Earth later. The full set of everything New Horizons captured won't be available for more than a year yet. But with 10 percent of the total cache in hand, researchers decided they had enough to do the first analysis of 2014 MU69.

2014 MU69 is thought to preserve material as it condensed in the earliest days of the Solar System's formation. And everything in the New Horizons' data suggests that this is exactly what it has done. With the exception of one big crater temporarily named "Maryland" and the gentle collision that created its two-lobed structure, the object appears to have been largely untouched by more than 4 billion years of the Solar System's existence.

Roger E. Moore
2019-May-17, 05:32 PM
More first results on Ultima Thule.


Initial results from the New Horizons exploration of 2014 MU69, a small Kuiper Belt object
S. A. Stern, et al.
Science 17 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6441

The Kuiper Belt is a broad, torus-shaped region in the outer Solar System beyond Neptune’s orbit. It contains primordial planetary building blocks and dwarf planets. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft conducted a flyby of Pluto and its system of moons on 14 July 2015. New Horizons then continued farther into the Kuiper Belt, adjusting its trajectory to fly close to the small Kuiper Belt object (486958) 2014 MU69 (henceforth MU69; also informally known as Ultima Thule). Stellar occultation observations in 2017 showed that MU69 was ~25 to 35 km in diameter, and therefore smaller than the diameter of Pluto (2375 km) by a factor of ~100 and less massive than Pluto by a factor of ~106. MU69 is located about 1.6 billion kilometers farther from the Sun than Pluto was at the time of the New Horizons flyby. MU69’s orbit indicates that it is a “cold classical” Kuiper Belt object, thought to be the least dynamically evolved population in the Solar System. A major goal of flying past this target is to investigate accretion processes in the outer Solar System and how those processes led to the formation of the planets. Because no small Kuiper Belt object had previously been explored by spacecraft, we also sought to provide a close-up look at such a body’s geology and composition, and to search for satellites, rings, and evidence of present or past atmosphere. We report initial scientific results and interpretations from that flyby.

2019-Nov-13, 03:09 PM
"Snowman-shaped target of NASA’s New Horizons mission gets a brand-new name"


A snowman-shaped object that NASA probe New Horizons flew by in early 2019 now has a brand-new name. On November 12th, NASA officials announced that the item formerly known as MU69 — and once nicknamed Ultima Thule — would now have the name Arrokoth, which is the word for “sky” in the Powhatan / Algonquian language.

2019-Nov-13, 07:55 PM
Do we have any info on how the name was chosen?

Van Rijn
2019-Nov-14, 06:11 AM
Ah, I liked Ultima Thule as a name. Apparently, some thought it sounded too much like the Thule society, which is tied to the Nazis, so they renamed it. Thule society sounds like something I might have heard of, but if so, probably something I only heard of in passing.

2019-Nov-14, 10:14 AM
Do we have any info on how the name was chosen?

GreekWire gives the answer.


Members of the New Horizons science team announced today that their proposed name has won approval by the International Astronomical Union and its Minor Planet Center.

Before making the proposal, the scientists won the consent of elders and representatives of the Powhatan Tribe — which is best-known as the home tribe for Pocahontas in the 17th century. Some present-day members of the tribe live in Maryland, which was the home base for New Horizons mission operations.

“The name ‘Arrokoth’ reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own,” New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at Southwest Research Institute, said in a NASA news release. “That desire to learn is at the heart of the New Horizons mission, and we’re honored to join with the Powhatan community and people of Maryland in this celebration of discovery.”

Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division, praised the choice of the name and said “we graciously accept this gift from the Powhatan people.”

2019-Nov-14, 12:48 PM
Odd. I thought Classical KBOs had to be named for creation deities. Unless the sky is a creation deity in Powhatan beliefs.

2019-Dec-08, 03:19 PM
"The PI's Perspective: What a Year, What a Decade!"

http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/The_PIs_Perspective_What_a_Year_What_a_Decade!_999 .html

New Horizons is healthy and performing well as it flies ever onward, at nearly one million miles per day! This month we're collecting new data on the Kuiper Belt's charged particle and dust environment, and observing two distant Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) to learn about their surface properties, shapes and rotation periods, and to search for satellite systems.

Much more is in store for this mission, but as this year and decade conclude, I want to look back and take stock of where we have been.

For New Horizons, 2019 began with a major mission milestone: the first-ever close up and personal exploration of a KBO. That target, originally known as 2014 MU69, is now the farthest world ever explored - more than a billion miles beyond Pluto!

And, if you hadn't heard, last month MU69 finally received its official name: Arrokoth, a Powhatan/Algonquian Native American word for "sky," which the New Horizons team chose. I love this beautiful name, and the way it beautifully honors both the state of Maryland, where so many Powhatans lived and where New Horizons was build and is operated from!