To Infinity And Beyond

NASA about to bring distant world into focus

A team of 12 researchers at NASA is getting giddy as the year draws to a close.

In the early hours of 2019, a watch team will be monitoring the New Horizons spacecraft as it closes to within 3500 kilometres of Ultima Thule – a mysterious space rock more than a billion kilometres beyond Pluto. It is the most distant world to ever be explored.

The image, with Ultima Thule circled in orange, was taken Christmas Eve when New Horizons was still 10-million kilometres away.

The researchers are hoping, with the New Year’s fly-by, to learn what rock is made of, how cold it is, its mass and whether or not it has any moons.

photo credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute