The New Horizon spacecraft wrote history as it successfully completed the flyby of the most distant world that humanity managed to reach. The world in question is known as Ultima Thule, a small icy remnant that dates back to the birth of the solar system. By analyzing it researchers hope to learn more about the formation of the planets that currently inhabit our solar system.
The historic event took place on the first day of 2019 when the spacecraft finally attempted the flyby near the objected. Ultima Thule is located at approximately 6.4 billion kilometers away from Earth. The entire NASA laboratory located in Maryland cheered as the cameras of New Horizon sent the first images of barren world.
The previous landmark took place when New Horizons reached Pluto, the most distant planet in our solar system that was observed by a spacecraft at that point. Three-and-a-half years and one billion kilometers later, the spacecraft is now observing the ancient remnant of Ultima Thule.
Real-time video would have been great but technical limitations won’t allow it since a signal sent from Earth will reach the spacecraft after more than 6 hours and the answer will come back after another 6.
New Horizons travels at an impressive speed of 51,200 kilometers per hour and the flyby took place at a distance of approximately 3,500 between spacecraft and the surface of the icy world. Many of the researchers will remember the night forever.
Ultima Thule is important due to the state of the world. Since it is completely frozen it has remained unchanged as eons passed and researchers may find valuable information after studies begin. They want to learn more about the composition and geology of the planet, along with other traits like atmosphere and initial look, in order to find out how objects began to form in our solar system.
The world was discovered back in 2014 with the help of an upgraded Hubble Space Telescope. NASA will release new information in the following days.