On January 1, 2019 NASA darling New Horizons made the farthest close approach fly-by of a cosmic object in human history. Tiny 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object far beyond Pluto was dubbed Ultima Thule shortly before the historic encounter. Ancient geographers used the term ultima Thule in reference to distant territory or destination, northernmost region of the habitable world, remotes goals or ideals. Ultima Thule suited the apple of New Horizons eye. Beyond limits of the known world, a fitting moniker until Nazi propaganda compelled Ultima Thule to become Arrokoth.
2014 MU69 – Arrokoth (Sky, in the Powhatan and Algonquian languages)
Long before a Newsweek reporter mentioned Nazi party use of Ultima Thule in reference to a mythical homeland for Aryan people, NASA pondered implication by association, including its legal team in naming 2014 MU69. Ultima Thule was a fine name, but for media buzz over Nazi propaganda I never would have known neo-Nazis and far right extremists claimed it for their cause. Nor would I known a Swedish skinhead band named Ultima Thule attained three top twenty hits in their homeland.
Imperatives to rename Ultima Thule had little to do with common public knowledge of Nazi propaganda, everything to do with alt-right association and use of Ultima Thule in their cause.
Ultima Thule renamed to avoid Nazi link
In a few minutes space history will induct New Years Day 2019 into the cosmic hall of fame. At 12:33 am EST on January 1, 2019 NASA’s New Horizons probe is tasked with making the farthest close approach fly-by of a space object in human history. Ultima Thule, a tiny Kuiper Belt object no more than 30 kilometers wide is about to be buzzed by the little mission that could. Linked below, a look no more definitive guide to NASA news conferences, live fly-by viewing and mission status.
Moments ago astrophysicist, New Horizons science collaborator and Queen guitarist Brian May premiered his first solo song in twenty years – New Horizons (Ultima Thule Mix), a tribute to twelve years of New Horizons and her brush with Ultima Thule.
Happy New Year.
A billion miles beyond Pluto, deep within mysteries of the Kuiper Belt resides object 2014 MU69 -otherwise known as Ultima Thule. On New Years Day, January 1, 2019, NASA will make space history when New Horizons buzzes past Ultima Thule, solidifying the farthest planetary flyby in human history.
On January 1st, 2019, shortly after the switch into the new year, New Horizons will make its close pass of Ultima Thule. Here’s what we’re poised to learn.NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker
Ultima Thule is the bright yellow spot in the middle. Image courtesy John Hopkins.
Passing at 2,200 miles, science hopes New Horizons can explain anomalous light reflected from Ultima Thule. Is Ultima Thule two orbiting objects, one elongated object, a miniscule planet orbited by many tiny light reflecting moons?
We’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, say Ultima Thule out loud – science fiction couldn’t script a better name for a mysterious cosmic object.
Launched January 19, 2006 NASA’s New Horizons probe began a mission to explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. New Horizons made headlines in July 2015, fulfilling mission goals beyond our wildest dreams.Five billion kilometers from Earth, it took four and a half hours for messages to reach home, transmissions containing exquisite images of our solar system’s petticoat.
NASA issued fresh orders – cross 1.6 billion kilometers beyond Pluto to intercept asteroid 2014 MU69 on New Year’s Day 2019.
Artist’s concept of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft streaking past 2014 MU69 – which might be 2 objects orbiting each other – on January 1, 2019. Image via Carlos Hernandez/ NASA.
Mu69 is minuscule by cosmic standards. One, perhaps two oddly shaped binary objects no more than 20 kilometers across. Barely noticed until passing in front of a few stars last summer, now the focus of New Horizons and a NASA contest open to anyone interested in giving MU69 a nickname. The link below takes you to the contest home page – read existing entries, vote or nominate one of your own.
Launched January 19, 2006 NASA’s New Horizons probe buckled down, unfazed by billions of miles between Earth and mission objectives – exploration of Pluto, Pluto’s moons and the Kuiper Belt. A few days ago, July 14, 2017 marked the second anniversary of New Horizons first fly-by of once a planet Pluto.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, capturing this near-sunset view of the dwarf planet’s icy mountains and flat ice plains. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) from Pluto; the scene is 780 miles (1,250 km) wide. – https://www.space.com/16533-pluto-new-horizons-spacecraft-pictures.html
Ponder New Horizons at – https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/new-horizons-nearing-pluto/
To honour New Horizon’s second “closest fly-by” of Pluto anniversary, NASA released two short commemorative videos –
The magnitude of New Horizons defies comprehension, it’s tough to fathom 7.5 billion kilometers culminating in near perfect dalliance with outer edges of our solar system. Rather than dismiss New Horizons for lack of tangible perspectives, ponder distance and time traveled with new eyes. Invite New Horizons images for tea, sip politely, let cosmic wonder tickle your toes. Laugh out loud when I tell you New Horizons has enough spring in her step to cross 1.6 billion kilometers beyond Pluto for a hand shake with asteroid 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019. Beyond that, New Horizons will wait as only good soldiers can. Ready to rise from trenches when fresh orders dictate another charge into the great unknown.
Last week NASA released a video compilation of New Horizons 2015 landing on Pluto.
What would it be like to actually land on Pluto? This movie was made from more than 100 images taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft over six weeks of approach and close flyby in the summer of 2015. The video offers a trip down onto the surface of Pluto — starting with a distant view of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon — and leading up to an eventual ride in for a “landing” on the shoreline of Pluto’s informally named Sputnik Planitia.
To create a movie that makes viewers feel as if they’re diving into Pluto, mission scientists had to interpolate some of the panchromatic (black and white) frames based on what they know Pluto looks like to make it as smooth and seamless as possible. Low-resolution color from the Ralph color camera aboard New Horizons was then draped over the frames to give the best available, actual color simulation of what it would look like to descend from high altitude to Pluto’s surface.
After a 9.5-year voyage covering more than three billion miles, New Horizons flew through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015, coming within 7,800 miles (12,500 kilometers) of Pluto. Carrying powerful telescopic cameras that could spot features smaller than a football field, New Horizons sent back hundreds of images of Pluto and its moons that show how dynamic and fascinating their surfaces are. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
The original black-and-white “landing” movie can be viewed at:
NASA’s New Horizons mission does it again – apparently Pluto has “floating hills”. February 4, 2016 NASA released images captured by New Horizons, 12 minutes before closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, at a distance of 16,000 kilometers.
Abundant hills measuring a few kilometers across, are thought to be “water ice”, floating on glaciers of dense nitrogen ice –
… likely miniature versions of the larger, jumbled mountains on Sputnik Planum’s western border. They are yet another example of Pluto’s fascinating and abundant geological activity.
Because water ice is less dense than nitrogen-dominated ice, scientists believe these water ice hills are floating in a sea of frozen nitrogen and move over time like icebergs in Earth’s Arctic Ocean.
The hills are likely fragments of the rugged uplands that have broken away and are being carried by the nitrogen glaciers into Sputnik Planum. ‘Chains’ of the drifting hills are formed along the flow paths of the glaciers.
When the hills enter the cellular terrain of central Sputnik Planum, they become subject to the convective motions of the nitrogen ice, and are pushed to the edges of the cells, where the hills cluster in groups …
View larger. | Hills of water ice on Pluto ‘float’ in a sea of frozen nitrogen. They’re thought to move slowly over time, somewhat like icebergs in Earth’s Arctic Ocean. For the scale here, notice the feature informally named Challenger Colles – honoring the crew of the lost Space Shuttle Challenger. It appears to be an especially large accumulation of these hills, measuring 37 by 22 miles (60 by 35 km). Image via NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI.