One NASA probe flew on Tuesday the farthest celestial body ever studied, Ulma Tule; a remnant of the solar system that will allow us to discover how planets were created.
"Come on, new horizons!", chief mission scientist Alan Stern cried out how many people exploded in euphoria at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, at 12.33 am, when the New Horizons probe led the cameras to form a rocky space of 6.4 billion kilometers Earth.
"Never before had the ship explored anything so far"said Stern.
The probe needs to capture 900 images in seconds while traveling about 3,500 kilometers.
"Now waiting to arrive the data is a matter of time" said the project's deputy director, John Spencer.
Scientists will know about 10:00 (15:00 GMT) if the transition to the Ultima Thule investigation was successful.
It is impossible to make live images of the investigation, because that distance takes more than six hours for a signal from the Earth to reach the New Horizons, and another to return. But if everything goes well, the first pictures of Ultima Thule will arrive on Earth in the next three days.
The goal of this mission is to understand how planets are formed, Stern explains.
"This item is so frozen that it stays in its original form," he said.
"Everything we learn about Ultima (its composition, its geology, how it is formed, whether it has satellites or atmosphere) will inform us about the conditions for the formation of objects from the solar system," he added.
Beware of speed
Ultima Thule is located in the Kuiper belt, a huge cosmic disk that dates back to the formation of planets that astronomers sometimes call the "barn" of the solar system.
Scientists do not know if this celestial body, discovered in 2014 by the Hubble Space Telescope, is circular, elongated, or if it is the only object or set of matter. Nor are they sure of their size, but are estimated to be about 100 times smaller than the dwarf planet Pluto.
To confirm this, they decided to send the New Horizons investigation after it succeeded in sending Pluto a very detailed picture of Pluto in 2015, nine years after its launch.
This time "we will try to get Ultima images with three times the resolution than Pluto images," explains Stern. "If we get that, it will be spectacular."
But the mission is dangerous. The new horizons travel through the universe at a speed of 51,500 kilometers per hour and at that speed, if you hit a fragment of grain size, it would be immediately destroyed. However, if everything goes well, the probe will reach 3,500 kilometers from the surface of Ultima and fly over an object at a speed of 14 km per second.
A remote island
Ultima Tule owes its name to a distant island of medieval literature. "It means" outside Thule ", beyond the known boundaries of our world, which symbolizes research outside the Kuiper belt," the space agency said.
Revealed in the 1990s, this belt is about 4,800 million kilometers from the Sun, out of the orbit of Neptune, the planet farthest from the solar system.
"It's the limit of astronomy," says scientist Hal Wever at Johns Hopkins University.
"We have finally reached the limits of the solar system," he astonishes. "These objects are there from the beginning and we believe that they have not changed.
Despite the partial closure of federal administrations, due to the battle between President Donald Trump and the Democratic Opposition over funding the border wall with Mexico, NASA, which depends on federal funds, vowed to continue to function. .
His administrator, Jim Bridgestone, also promised news for another investigation: OSIRIS-REx, which will orbit the asteroid Bennu on the night of San Silvester.