New Horizons flew by the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft

  • NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past Ultima Thule in the early hours of January 1, 2019, and conducted the farthest exploration of any world in history.
  •  Ultima Thule is located in Kuiper Belt, a region of primordial objects that holds keys to understanding the origins of the solar system.
  • In addition to being the first to explore Pluto, New Horizons on January 1, 2019 flew by the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft and became the first to directly explore an object that holds remnants from the birth of our solar system. 
  • It is 4 billion miles from the Sun. 
  • Images taken during the spacecraft’s approach — which brought New Horizons to within just 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) of Ultima revealed that the Kuiper Belt object may have a shape similar to a bowling pin, spinning end over end, with dimensions of approximately 20 by 10 miles (32 by 16 kilometers).
  • Scientists are not sure what Ultima Thule (pronounced TOO-lee) looks like — whether it is round or oblong or even if it is a single object or a cluster.
  • Ultima Thule was discovered in 2014 with the help of the Hubble Space Telescope, and is believed to be 20-30 km in size.

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