NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, launched in 2006 with an essential mission to play out the first-ever flyby of Pluto, has given scientists important data about the dwarf planet. Presently, the space probe has made more history with its January 1, 2019 flyby of distant world 2014 MU69. The close rendezvous with the icy rock, found four billion miles from Earth in the Kuiper Belt, isn’t just humankind’s furthest experience with a distant object, yet in addition the most primitive one at any point visited by a spacecraft.
Nicknamed Ultima Thule for a Latin phrase meaning “beyond the known world,” 2014 MU69 is classified as a “Kuiper Belt Object.” NASA analysts trust the ring of icy worlds, situated past Neptune, is a “region of leftovers from the solar system’s early history.” Discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014, it was distinguished as New Horizons’ next focus after the rocket finished its flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015.
The fundamental draw of investigating Kuiper Belt Objects, similar to Ultima, is their primordial nature. Alan Stern, the NASA planetary researcher leading the deep space mission, stated, “The object is in such a deep freeze that it’s essentially preserved from its initial formation. Everything that we’re going to learn about Ultima, from its composition to its geology to how it’s assembled, is going to teach us about the original formation conditions of the solar system.”
Traveling at a fast speed of 32,000 mph (51,500 km/h), New Horizons got to inside 2,200 miles of its objective at the booked 12:33 a.m. EST on January 1, 2019. Be that as it may, thanks to the 4-billion-mile distance, it took right around 10 hours for mission control specialists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland to get the flag from the rocket indicating it was healthy and had filled its information recorders with fundamental data on Ultima.
“We have a sound rocket,” said mission tasks supervisor Alice Bowman. “We’ve quite recently achieved the most far off flyby. We are prepared for Ultima Thule science transmission.”
Beginning pictures of Ultima, taken by the spacecraft as it was approaching the distant world, appeared to indicate the approximately 20-mile-by-10-mile (32-km-by-16-km) icy world was shaped like a bowling pin, with two lobes connected by a center mass. Be that as it may, new photographs got after the nearby flyby indicates they are attached tightly together. “That bowling pin is gone,” said Stern. “It’s a snowman if it’s anything at all.”
Much all the more fascinating, the frosty projections, which have separately been named “Ultima” and “Thule,” are red. The researchers trust the discoloration is likely caused by a similar deep-space radiation responsible for the reddish hues sported by Pluto and its biggest moon, Charon. They hypothesize that Ultima and Thule were once separate free-flying objects that came together gently, similar to a spacecraft docking, shortly after the solar system’s birth.
Stern estimates that given the distance, it will take the spacecraft around 20 months to transmit the “literally hundreds of images and spectra and other data types” captured during the quick flyby. When all the data is in, the scientists will have the capacity to reveal further details regarding the icy world, including its topography and on the off chance that it has moons, rings, or something altogether unexpected.
“This is unknown exploration; anything is possible,” said John Spencer, the mission’s deputy project scientist. “Anything is possible out here when you’re exploring a new class of world that you haven’t seen before.”
In the interim, the specialists are contemplating extending New Horizons’ main goal to at least 2021 and finding it a new target that will help give further insights into the Kuiper Belt area.