Tags: pluto | probe | kuiper belt | ultima thule

Pluto Probe Wakes Up for Rendezvous With Ultima Thule

Pluto Probe Wakes Up for Rendezvous With Ultima Thule

Pluto probe New Horizon (NASA)

By    |   Wednesday, 06 June 2018 06:38 AM

Pluto probe New Horizon woke up far away from home on Tuesday as it approaches a distant object in the Kuiper Belt never seen close-up before, at least by earthlings.

The spacecraft that took historic pictures of Pluto in July 2015 snapped out of its six-month slumber as it prepares for its rendezvous with the object called Ultima Thule some four billion miles away from Earth, the tech website Mashable reported.

Ultima Thule is a billion miles beyond Pluto and is part of a belt thought to have been leftover from the start of our solar system. If everything goes well, New Horizon will start taking pictures of the object, officially known as 2014 MU69, in August on its way to its closest approach on Jan. 1, 2019, Mashable said.

"Our team is already deep into planning and simulations of our upcoming flyby of Ultima Thule and excited that New Horizons is now back in an active state to ready the bird for flyby operations, which will begin in late August," said the spaceship's principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

NASA said Stern's mission team will gather navigation tracking data and send the first of many commands to New Horizons' onboard computers to begin preparations for the deep space flyby, that will go on for about two months.

New Horizon's Pluto flyby continues to pay off for scientists, creating new theories about the creation of the dwarf planet. Researchers now believe that Pluto may be a blob of agglomerating comets, based on detailed images the spaceship took of a heart-shaped region unofficially named Tombaugh Regio.

While NASA knows that Ultima Thule is out there and that it may even have a small moon orbiting it, they are eager to know more about mysterious object.

"We really won't know what MU69 looks like until we fly past it, or even gain a full understanding of it until after the encounter," said New Horizons science team member Marc Buie at last year’s American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting.

"But even from afar, the more we examine it, the more interesting and amazing this little world becomes," Buie continued.

After its road trip to Ultima Thule, the spacecraft is expected to complete other Kuiper Belt science observations, NASA noted.

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Pluto probe New Horizon woke up far away from home on Tuesday as it approaches a distant object in the Kuiper Belt never seen close-up before, at least by earthlings.
pluto, probe, kuiper belt, ultima thule
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2018-38-06
Wednesday, 06 June 2018 06:38 AM
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