New Horizons spacecraft returns its sharpest views of Ultima Thule

New Horizons spacecraft returns its sharpest views of Ultima Thule
The most detailed images of Ultima Thule -- obtained just minutes before the spacecraft's closest approach at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1 -- have a resolution of about 110 feet (33 meters) per pixel. Their combination of higher spatial resolution and a favorable viewing geometry offer an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the surface of Ultima Thule, believed to be the most primitive object ever encountered by a spacecraft. This processed, composite picture combines nine individual images taken with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), each with an exposure time of 0.025 seconds, just 6 ½ minutes before the spacecraft's closest approach to Ultima Thule (officially named 2014 MU69). The image was taken at 5:26 UT (12:26 a.m. EST) on Jan. 1, 2019, when the spacecraft was 4,109 miles (6,628 kilometers) from Ultima Thule and 4.1 billion miles (6.6 billion kilometers) from Earth. The angle between the spacecraft, Ultima Thule and the Sun – known as the "phase angle" – was 33 degrees. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute, National Optical Astronomy Observatory

The mission team called it a "stretch goal" – just before closest approach, precisely point the cameras on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft to snap the sharpest possible pics of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule, its New Year's flyby target and the farthest object ever explored.

Now that New Horizons has sent those stored flyby images back to Earth, the team can enthusiastically confirm that its ambitious goal was met.

These new images of Ultima Thule – obtained by the telephoto Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) just 6½ minutes before New Horizons' to the object (officially named 2014 MU69) at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1 – offer a resolution of about 110 feet (33 meters) per pixel. Their combination of high spatial resolution and a favorable viewing angle gives the team an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the surface, as well as the origin and evolution, of Ultima Thule – thought to be the most primitive object ever encountered by a spacecraft.

"Bullseye!" said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). "Getting these images required us to know precisely where both tiny Ultima and New Horizons were—moment by moment – as they passed one another at over 32,000 miles per hour in the dim light of the Kuiper Belt, a billion miles beyond Pluto. This was a much tougher observation than anything we had attempted in our 2015 Pluto flyby.

"These 'stretch goal' observations were risky, because there was a real chance we'd only get part or even none of Ultima in the camera's narrow field of view," he continued. "But the science, operations and navigation teams nailed it, and the result is a field day for our science team! Some of the details we now see on Ultima Thule's surface are unlike any object ever explored before."

New Horizons scientists created this movie from 14 different images taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) shortly before the spacecraft flew past the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule (officially named 2014 MU69) on Jan. 1, 2019. The central frame of this sequence was taken on Jan. 1 at 5:26:54 UT (12:26 a.m. EST), when New Horizons was 4,117 miles (6,640 kilometers) from Ultima Thule, some 4.1 billion miles (6.6 billion kilometers) from Earth. Ultima Thule nearly completely fills the LORRI image and is perfectly captured in the frames, an astounding technical feat given the uncertain location of Ultima Thule and the New Horizons spacecraft flying past it at over 32,000 miles per hour. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

The higher resolution brings out a many that weren't readily apparent in earlier images. Among them are several bright, enigmatic, roughly circular patches of terrain. In addition, many small, dark pits near the terminator (the boundary between the sunlit and dark sides of the body) are better resolved. "Whether these features are craters produced by impactors, sublimation pits, collapse pits, or something entirely different, is being debated in our science team," said John Spencer, deputy project scientist from SwRI.

Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, noted that the latest images have the highest spatial resolution of any New Horizons has taken – or may ever take – during its entire mission. Swooping within just 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers), New Horizons flew approximately three times closer to Ultima than it zipped past its primary mission target, Pluto, in July 2015.

Ultima Thule is smaller than Pluto, but the Ultima flyby was done with the highest navigation precision ever achieved by any spacecraft. This unprecedented precision was achieved thanks to the ground-based occultation campaigns from 2017 and 2018 conducted in Argentina, Senegal, South Africa and Colombia, as well as the European Space Agency's Gaia mission, which provided the locations of the stars that were used during the occultation campaigns.

Look for these and other LORRI images on the New Horizons LORRI website this week. Raw images from the camera are posted to the site each Friday.

Mission operations manager Alice Bowman, of APL, reports that the spacecraft continues to operate flawlessly. New Horizons is nearly 4.13 billion miles (6.64 billion kilometers) from Earth; at that distance, radio signals, traveling at light speed, reach the large antennas of NASA's Deep Space Network six hours and nine minutes after New Horizons sends them. Follow New Horizons on its trek through the Kuiper Belt.


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New Horizons' newest and best-yet view of Ultima Thule

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Feb 23, 2019
"Whether these features are craters produced by impactors, sublimation pits, collapse pits, or something entirely different, is being debated in our science team,"

In other words, we're pontificating fanciful about these features which cannot be explained by the standard guesswork. Ad hoc explanations to be proffered and voted on as soon as we can attempt to explain these features, a posteriori.

Feb 23, 2019
well cant, yah donit again...
you managed to get your posterior where your cranium should be!
(thanks, Abe. I owe you one.)

Unlike the plagiarist fakirs pf woomomgery.

Real Scientists work with the evidence they have collected.

& when there is not yet enough data to make conclusive statements?
They try to lay out the possible options that will need to be proven.

After billions of years? In my opinion all these possibilities, including the still unrealized will be proven to have all occurred at one aeon or another.

Still no visible spazzplasmic blightening bolts or flaring thundermugging flatulence in sight.
What a downer for the wooloons!

Feb 23, 2019
After billions of years? In my opinion all these possibilities, including the still unrealized will be proven to have all occurred at one aeon or another.

Still no visible spazzplasmic blightening bolts or flaring thundermugging flatulence in sight.
What a downer for the wooloons!

All we need is billions of years and anything magical can happen.
What cannot happen, of course, is the phenomena that explains every observed feature.

Feb 23, 2019
@cantthink can't think how anyone could tell anything from a picture.

That's why it's a troll.

Feb 23, 2019
The PysOrg comment section always reminds me of a scene from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Feb 23, 2019
Well, you see, the reason there is so much kookieness here is because Americans are generally low life, morons.

Feb 23, 2019
Whysguy. In my inconsiderate opinion, this comment section should be titled "Bedlam".

4venting. The Bogus POTUS trumpsterfire is tweeting that his crime family wants a spanking new American National Motto:
"Excess is Never enough!"

Though they are having problems with the RNC's competing suggestion:
""Extremism in the defense of license to commit vice is fine with us & the evangelicals. And...moderation in the pursuit of virtue is not profitable!"

Kinda clunky, I know.
But there you are.
Clunky, just like the
Grasping Obsolete Pederasts.

Our misfortune we are stuck with them until putin dies without an heir apparent,
Gifting us another peek into KGB files. Listing the payoffs for collaborating with pimp putin & his global cabal of kleptocracy.

Or, when the Saudi regime implodes. As the myriad of princes kill each other for a bigger cut of the loot.

"I Have a Dream!" but I'm not as nice a person as Dr, King would have tried to inspire. Me bad!

Feb 23, 2019
Well, you see, the reason there is so much kookieness here is because Americans are generally low life, morons.

Wherever you're from, there are just as many nutjobs.

Feb 24, 2019
Wherever you're from, there are just as many nutjobs.

The world is laughing at America.

Feb 24, 2019
Wherever you're from, there are just as many nutjobs.

The world is laughing at America.


And yet, they all want to come to America. Now why is that, V4? Do they want to come here so that they can get in line for all of the freebies that the Democrat Socialists in America want to distribute to those who will not work for a living? Why is the world laughing as they run to their local US Embassy to apply for a Visa to get to the US ASAP? Why do the citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and other countries pay coyotes a large amount of cash to get them into the US illegally? I mean, what is wrong with their OWN countries, V4? Are all of these people from Europe, Africa, South and Central America, and Asia nutcases, who prefer to give up their citizenships in their homeland to become either legal or illegal immigrants in the US?
YOU seem to have all the answers, V4. Do regale us with your vast knowledge to let Americans know what we're doing wrong.

Feb 24, 2019
YOU seem to have all the answers, V4. Do regale us with your vast knowledge to let Americans know what we're doing wrong.


I have nothing against Americans as a whole. However, electing a complete twat as their president is not making them look good.


Feb 24, 2019
Ultima Thule is smaller than Pluto...


That's like saying Chicago is further from New York than Long Island.

Feb 24, 2019
Space Piccies

How is this more detailed Picci
its exactly the same as before
also
just like the original is from the wrong angle, this also is from the wrong angle

The true Picci
is
the one likened to two farthings stuck end on end
with the resolution of this camera
the distance from this alluring model
give or take a 1000miles or so
this camera is going to take exactly identical detailed images
coming up to closest approach
at closest approach
just after closest approach

After 4.5billion years
Ultima Thule's moment of fame in the lime light has passed
now
Ultima Thule can saviour that brief moment of fame
and
Sleep peacefully for another 4.5billion years!

Feb 24, 2019
YOU seem to have all the answers, V4. Do regale us with your vast knowledge to let Americans know what we're doing wrong.


I have nothing against Americans as a whole. However, electing a complete twat as their president is not making them look good.


Unfortunately it's not the first time.

Feb 24, 2019
YOU seem to have all the answers, V4. Do regale us with your vast knowledge to let Americans know what we're doing wrong.


I have nothing against Americans as a whole. However, electing a complete twat as their president is not making them look good.

says jones

He may be a complete twat to you, but during Trump's presidency the American economy has vastly improved over the poor economy under Barack Obama's 8 years; big businesses have returned to the US from overseas - offering high employment to Americans; Trump's foreign policy prevented the North Korean dictator from continuing his missile launching tests that would have possibly endangered the West coast of the US; Trump's insistence to have the Wall built for national security reasons to help prevent bad actors arriving on US soil with nuclear weapons. He is, and has, been good for the country. The sad thing is that too many millennials have been turned on to Socialism through the education system.

Feb 24, 2019
@jones
Socialism might be fine with the population in Sweden - they are all, for the most part. Swedes along with their own indigenous culture. But the US is a melting pot of many, many cultures, races, ethnic groups, political views, education, ideologies, motivations, etc. The current rise in the US of socialist thought against those Americans who are rich, is divisive and unequal - due to the fact that many Socialists and Liberals are also rich. Bill Gates (Liberal), Jeff Bezos (Liberal), Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist politician), and many more are rich and are against the wealthy as though they were not in the same class. If the Socialists come into power in the US, all of them will be taxed heavily just as much as any business owner. Basketball and American football players are also rich. It is astonishing how much they are worth in USDollars. But Socialism would destroy the USA and would lead to full Communism with many lives exterminated. The rest of the world too

Feb 24, 2019
Space Piccies

How is this more detailed Picci
its exactly the same as before
also
just like the original is from the wrong angle, this also is from the wrong angle

The true Picci is
the one likened to two farthings stuck end on end
with the resolution of this camera
the distance from this alluring model
give or take a 1000miles or so
this camera is going to take exactly identical detailed images
coming up to closest approach
at closest approach
just after closest approach
says granville

It is disappointing, isn't it? Two farthings stuck end on end is exactly what it resembles and you can even see the region where it had fused together. It looks a bit like 2 hotcakes in a frying pan - one slightly larger. I think it should be featured in an episode of "The Family Man". LOL

Feb 24, 2019
oh sillyegghead. you continuously display with your garish bleating just how inferior you are to everyone. Everywhere In the World.

No wonder you want to wall off & dome over America,
Where you can cower away, sucking your big toe.
Hiding from the reality of your pathetically wretched existence.

Feb 24, 2019
This feat by Hyabusa 2 was quite impossible, not only to achieve, but until a few years ago even to imagine. I first read about some of these intentions in the 'dark ages' of the 1990's about sample returns. Our first fly by's of Mars and Venus were a joke in comparison. The data came back digitally to make low res pix of impenetrable clouds over Venus yet with glimpses of its true uninhabitability. And Venus was a 'close target' that was achieved, along with Mars, at great cost and not a few failures. The 'Great Galactic Ghoul' was often featured as a malevolent intelligence consuming our expensive probes with reputed 'glee'. Looking back, we had to 'own' most of those failures. True, random 'space bullets' are out there, but much less frequent than we expected. Most crap in space has already been eaten by planets, our central star, asteroids 'growing', etc.
Please give some credit to our science and its miracle workers......
Better than ceaseless bickering!

Feb 25, 2019
Ignorant trols, possibly drank, and americans letting us know of their social and political perceptions.
Ah! . . . my God . . .
It will indeed take a very fine resolution to tell who is who.

Feb 25, 2019
osiriswon, in general, I can agree with your comment except for one point. ",,, Our first fly by's of Mars and Venus were a joke in comparison. ..."

This is like comparing a lump of coal with a cut & polished diamond.
At the start of the Post-Apollo Era, NASA did their best with what they had.

"Use it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do
or do without"

Each mission pre-1990's, was a single small step forward since that boot print at Tranquility.

"Today, we stand on the shoulders of giants!"


Feb 26, 2019
oh sillyegghead. you continuously display with your garish bleating just how inferior you are to everyone. Everywhere In the World.

No wonder you want to wall off & dome over America,
Where you can cower away, sucking your big toe.
Hiding from the reality of your pathetically wretched existence.
says rrwilliejoe

Congratulations, rrwilliejoe - you still retain the "Silly Goose" award for 2018 - 2019. Da Schniebo came in second place. For 2020 you may have to compete with SpookyOtto for first prize once he purchases his reading glasses.
:)

Feb 27, 2019
"I want to thank all the members of the Real Science community for awarding me the Sly Goose, this year.
& I want to thank personally sillyegghead.
Whose utter stupidity & spectacular displays of ignorance, made me such a Winner!
Against the wooloon whiner".

"Going to Los Vegas, baby!"

Feb 27, 2019
osiriswon, one (ahem) correction "... This feat by Hyabusa 2 was quite impossible, not only to achieve, but until a few years ago even to imagine. ..."

Should be corrected to:
"This feat by Hyabusa 2 was quite implausible,"

It was just blind, random chance that after the Hyabusa 2 probe, so spectacularly completed it's original mission. That it's course would take it near any Trans-Plutonian bodies.

The Hyabusa 2 team hoped for extra opportunities but will be happy, nay grateful, to take advantage of whatever good fortune accidentally comes near the probe.

Space is vast. Even planets are infinitesimal on such a scale.
I have read the complaints that these Outer System probes are not better directed.

Far from the Sun, what light is there to reflect any material body's position?
Before someone asks.
No infra-red either.

Out there? Everything so dispersed? All that is active are the subtle effects of gravitational masses.


Mar 01, 2019
"I want to thank all the members of the Real Science community for awarding me the Sly Goose, this year.
& I want to thank personally sillyegghead.
Whose utter stupidity & spectacular displays of ignorance, made me such a Winner!
Against the wooloon whiner".

"Going to Los Vegas, baby!"
says rrwilliejoe

The awards will be given out in your hometown of Camden, New Jersey in the city centre that is next to the town dump. It's at 2AM. Don't be late

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