This article was provided by the Simulation Curriculum, a leader in space science software and application creators SkySafari and Pluto Safari for Android and iOS.
At 12:33 EST (0533 GMT) on January 1, 2019, a robotic emissary of humanity will fly past the rest of the world in the outer solar system. The New Horizons spacecraft, which had a wildly successful meeting with Pluto on July 14, 2015, received an expanded mission to explore a remote object from the Kuiper belt designated for 2014 MU69 and unofficially called Ultima Thule.
On a billion miles away from Pluto, this will be the farthest spacecraft in human history. At the time of its closest approach, the New Horizons will travel at an explosive speed of 32,279 miles per hour (or 51,948 km / h) and will pass only 3,500 kilometers from the facility. It's three times closer than it ever made to Pluto. The sun will have a small point of light of more than 43 astronomical units away (AU, the median distance between the Earth and the Sun). Despite this, we expect to get exciting images of a reddish, double-sided (or possible double) object that will help us understand the formation and evolution of our solar system. [These Are the Most Out-of-This-World Photos Ever Taken — Literally]
For astronomy and spatial enthusiasts, the flight will make this New Year's day an extra-special time for celebration. But radio signals from the New Horizons and the extraordinary new images they bring to us will not arrive on Earth receivers for more than 6 hours later. In this issue of Mobile Astronomy, we will discuss how to use this historical event. You can use your favorite mobile device to read the fascinating mission book, watch NASA television for the event in the NASA application, starting from noon on December 31 (if government shutdown ends and NASA TV is back in action – otherwise Laboratory for Applied Physics, Johns Hopkins will have live foods), and you can experience the meeting practically using the free Pluto Safari application from the creators of the SkySafari 6 Astronomy Application.
The Pluto Safari application
The Pluto Safari application (free download from the Google Play for Android app and the iOS App Store) was originally created to deliver, in a convenient way, a wealth of information about the New Horizons 2015 meeting with Pluto. For the transit of Ultima Thule, the application has been updated to include the time line of the mission's investigation, the spacecraft locations and its target object (now and for all phases of the mission), background information about the spacecraft and target objects, and violation of news. Plus, all the information about the Pluto meeting is still included in the application.
The Pluto Safari application's home page displays a countdown running at the flight and the current distance between New Horizons and Ultima Thule. This will alert you to a precise second when the flight takes place. Two particularly useful aspects of the Pluto Safari application are its news and the interactive simulator of the solar system. The latter is used in several instructive ways to convey the true meaning of the meeting.
On the home page, tapping the News icon invokes the latest news, data, and discoveries about the mission. As stories have been published by the New Horizons team, the app adds content to the top of the news. Every article is written with non-experts in the mind and includes similar images. There is also a marked gallery of pictures.
The Home Guide icon opens a list of articles covering key aspects of the mission. Here, there are historical and background information about Pluto and Ultima Thule, as well as the design of the mission, aircraft instruments and scientific results from the meeting with Pluto. Each article is accompanied by diagrams and images.
Pressing the Start Screen Survey icon leads to a page where users can read about the International Astronomical Union's decision to humiliate Pluto on a dwarf planet in 2006, take into account the arguments from both sides, and then vote for their opinion!
Send the New Horizon mission practically
The Plutoon Safari Solar System Simulator will be familiar with the users of the SkySafari application. It is used for the Timeline and location functions in the application. The Timeline page displays the information for each milestone in the New Horizons mission, allowing the user to go through each phase of the mission – since the launch in 2006, Jupiter's gravity assistant, various distance calculations, the first images of the subjects, the meeting with Pluto and the flight of Ultima Tule. In each case, the date and time and distance from the New Horizons to Earth and Pluto are specified.
A preview button starts the simulated 3D view of each time event from the perspective of New Horizons in space. In this mode, you can fasten and zoom the screen to resize the subject, drag your finger to reorient your view, or use the arrow icons up and down to change the distance from the spacecraft. (The current distance is displayed in the upper left corner of the screen.)
Most of the simulations start with the time that runs forward as standard. Pressing the clock icon at the bottom of the screen will open the control panel for the flow of time, allowing you to step back or forth, continuously or step by step. To pause the time, tap one of the two innermost arrows. To continue, tap one of the farthest arrows. The rate of time flow is controlled by selecting each parameter for a time or date, such as the month or hour. If you accelerate the past of the event, start the time back or simply return to the timeline page and tap the View icon to restart that event.
To transfer each meeting clearly, the options displayed on the screen vary. For example, Flutter Flight shows the orbits of the Pluto moons, while the flight of Ultima Thule displays the orbits of all planets and Ultima Thule, plus the trajectory of the spacecraft through them.
The "Location" page offers seven ways to view the current status of the New Horizons mission. One of them shows the position of the spacecraft and Ultima Thule in the sky, viewed from your location on Earth. On January 1, 2019, their position will be 0.25 degrees northwest of the star Al Al Baldah (also named 41 Sagittarius). That part of the sky will be set up right after the evening sun in early January, but the objects will be too close to the sun to observe and will be far below the horizon for the observers of the Western Hemisphere during the flight. The second view of the sky is reserved for Pluto, which will be even closer to the sun on January 1, 2019.
The remaining five simulated views are 3-dimensional models of the spacecraft and the solar system. One shows the trajectory of New Horizons, Ultima Thule and its orbit, and the orbits of the major planets, all seen from high above the plane of the solar system. Another view shows the approach of the Ultima Thule probe, looking inside from a point near the plane of the solar system.
The most interesting option, The View of the Kuiper Belt Objects, covers the basic elements of the other two paragraphs, but adds 9 of the largest ever detected CBOs, including Eris, the object that led to the degradation of Pluto to the dwarf planet. You can also use the anchor option to reduce and close the huge orbit of Sedna. Bending the model to bring the orbits of the classic planets into one plane will reveal how different the affections of these distant worlds are.
The last two simulations focus on Pluto. As before, the Zoom and Zoom option, model diversion and flow time will let you experience the flight experience. And, if you have a device that's useful when New Horizons flying past Ultima Thule, you'll feel like you're together for a ride.
While you are waiting for the flight of Utlima Thule, you can use your mobile device to overcome some of Pluto's new horizons and background. Download a book or audio version of "Chasing New Horizons: Inside Pluto's epic first mission" – engaging and detailed explanation of the mission of Alan Stern and David Greenspan. Despite the knowledge of the outcome, the authors are struggling to build tensions during the crucial moments of the decade's journey from the concept of the mission to the meeting with Pluto. If you choose an audio book, you can hear that the authors themselves tell a trip.
Use the browser on your device to turn on the live coverage of NASA's Ultima Thule TV (again, if the cessation of the cessation ends). Currently, the schedule outlines missions and missions that begin on Friday, December 28, at 1 pm, the first images and science from Ultima Thule at 10 am on January 1, and the scientific newsletter continues until Thursday, January 3. If the NASA Television is not active, Johns Hopkins's Applied Physics Laboratory will transmit live mission activities to their website and YouTube.
Anyway, I will join. See you on the other side!
In future releases of Mobile Astronomy, we will look at the best astronomical events of 2019, we will explore how the constellations look in three dimensions, highlight some winter observation targets and much more. Until then, always watch!
Editor's note: Chris Vaughan is a specialist in Astronomy and Astro Astronomy at AstroGeo, a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and operator of the historic 74-inch David Dunlap Observatory telescope. You can reach it by email and follow it on Twitter @astrogeoguy, as well as on Facebook and Tumblr.