The NASA spacecraft, which announced the first circles of Pluto, opened the new year in an even more distant world.
The flight controllers said everything looked good for the flight of New Horizons to the small ice facility at 12:33 on Tuesday. However, the confirmation was not expected for hours, given the vast distance.
The mysterious, ancient Target Throne Ultima Thule is 6.5 billion kilometers from Earth.
Scientists wanted New Horizons to observe Ultima Thule during the meeting, not to call home. So they had to wait until the end of the morning before they learned whether the spacecraft survived.
Right NOW, about 1 billion miles past Pluto, @NASANewHorizons Performs the farthest flying spacecraft as it passes through the past #UltimaThule, an iceberg, an ancient rock in the Kuiper Belt. Watch live Live: https://t.co/oJKHgKpQjH pic.twitter.com/U30yazzigo
With the new autopilot horizons, mission control was empty at the John L. Hopkins University of Applied Physics Laboratory at Laurel, MD. Instead, hundreds of team members and their guests gathered near the countdown back and forth campus.
The crowd introduced in 2019 at midnight, then rejoined 33 minutes later, the appointed time for the closest access to the New Horizons to Ultima Tule.
Several black and white photos of Ultima Thule could be available after Tuesday's official confirmation, but expectations in the near future will not be ready by Wednesday or Thursday, in color, hope.
Travel to capture spacecraft
"We set a record. Never before, the spacecraft did not investigate anything so far," said a leading project scientist who led the countdown to a close encounter, Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute. "Think about it. We're billions miles away from Pluto."
Stern called it a successful start by 2019, marking the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's and Base Aldrin's footsteps on the moon in July 1969.
"Ultima Thule is 17,000 times as much as the" huge jump "of Apollo lunar missions," Stern said in the New York Times.
The new horizons, the size of which is the grand piano for babies and part of the US mission of 800 million US dollars, were expected to reach 3,500 kilometers from Ultima Thule, significantly closer than the meeting with Pluto from 2015.
Her seven scientific instruments continued to collect data four hours after the flight. Then the spacecraft was to turn briefly to Earth to convey the word for its success. It takes more than six hours for radio signals to reach the Earth from that distance.
Scientists believe there should be no rings or moons around Ultima Thule that could endanger new horizons. Traveling at 50,700 kilometers per hour, the spacecraft can easily be ejected from a particle size rice. It's a more difficult meeting than Pluto due to distance and significant unknowns, and since the spacecraft is older now.
"I can not promise you success. We expel the capabilities of this spacecraft," said Stern at a press conference Monday. "By tomorrow, we will know how we succeeded. So stay tuned. There is no chance for new horizons."
The risk added to the excitement.
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Queen guitarist Brian May, who also happens as an astrophysicist, joins John Hopkins' team for a midnight premiere of the song he wrote for the big event.
"We will never forget this moment," said May, who led the countdown of the New Year. "This is a completely unknown territory".
Despite the cessation of the government, several NASA scientists and other employees appeared at John Hopkins as private citizens who did not want to miss history.
Ultima Tule was unknown until 2014, eight years after New Horizons left the Earth. It was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope and added to the New Horizons route.
Deep inside the so-called. Kuiper Belt, a frigid space outside Neptune, also known as the Twilight Zone, is thought to be Ultima Thule dating from 4.5 billion years ago to the formation of our solar system. As such, it is "probably the best capsule we ever had to understand the birth of our solar system and the planets in it," Stern said.
In classical and medieval literature, Thule was the farthest northern place outside the famous world.
Scientists suspect Ultima Thule is the only object that is not longer than 32 kilometers, although it is possible to prove that there are two smaller bodies that orbit one another or are connected to a thin neck. It is thought to be potato and dark colored by a touch of red, probably because it is cosmic ray for eons.
The exact shape and composition will not be known until Ultima Thule begins to send data back in a process that is expected to last nearly two years.
"Who knows what can be found? … Something is possible out there in this unknown region," said John Spencer, a Southwest Research Institute Deputy Project Scientist. "We'll find out soon."