NASA Makes Space History With Distant Fly-By

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In classic and medieval literature, Thule was the most distant, northernmost place beyond the known world.

Because of the power limits for New Horizons' transmitter, plus the extreme distances involved, the spacecraft will be sending back data at a rate of only 1,000 bits per second.

Researchers are interested in small objects in the far reaches of the solar system, asteroids and comets, because they could contain clues to the solar systems origin story.

A few black-and-white pictures of Ultima Thule might be available following Tuesday's official confirmation, but the highly anticipated close-ups won't be ready until Wednesday or Thursday, in colour, it is hoped. It could be that the object rotates with its polar axis pointing towards Earth and New Horizons, so we don't see any noticeable change.

The craft will collect images and scientific data - including geological and atmospheric information - to beam back to Earth.

'Ultima was formed in the middle of the Kuiper Belt, where temperatures are close to absolute zero, ' Stern wrote.

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He took a breath. "We will find out".

NASA is celebrating the record-setting encounter with the solar system's nerdiest New Year's party.

The Osiris-Rex spacecraft is now orbiting Bennu - a tiny asteroid that is just 500m (1,600ft) long and found 70 million miles from Earth. The countdown, signal acquisition and subsequent news conferences will be streamed live on NASA TV and YouTube. This is known as the Kuiper belt, and Pluto is considered to be the largest member, followed by Eris, Haumea, 2007 OR10, Makemake and Charon (Pluto's binary planet pair-bond, or its largest moon, whichever you prefer).

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.

"Because this is a flyby, we only get one chance to get it right", Bowman said.

New Horizons' encounter with Ultima Thule was to occur around 12:33 a.m. ET - more than three years after its first swung past Pluto.

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Until the 1990s, no one knew what hid out here, where sunlight is 0.05 as faint as it is on Earth. "What we'll very soon learn about this primordial building block of our solar system will exponentially expand our knowledge of this relatively unknown third region of space". NASA says Ultima Thule is likely the most primitive planetary object ever explored.

Ultima Thule, first spotted by NASA's Hubble Telescope in 2014, is likely a dark, complex shape, and it could be two bodies.

It is noted that the image from several frames are subjected to processing, can be seen the elongated body, the length of which is approximately two times greater than the width, however, whether a single object or a double system is unclear.

New Horizons was set to take a total of 900 highest-resolution images throughout the flyby and the mission team will know in time how many of those images clearly show Ultima Thule. NASA launched the probe in 2006; it's about the size of a baby grand piano.

After closely studying the asteroid for several weeks, Osiris-Rex fired its thrusters to bring it into orbit around Bennu at 7.43pm United Kingdom time on New Year's Eve.

"Prior to the flypast, Mr Stern had said: "[Ultima Thule] is in such a deep freeze that it is perfectly preserved from its original formation.

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The report also predicted that the $15 rate would save taxpayers $200 to $500 million a year in food stamp and Medicaid spending. The National Employment Law Project wage protests were expected at the federal and state levels over the next two years.

So what can we expect?

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