- 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.
Happy New Year! @NASANewHorizons made its flyby of #UltimaThule at 12:33am ET. We’ll be live at 9:45am ET as we await the confirmation signal from the spacecraft. See you in the morning! pic.twitter.com/g89vbHshdl
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) January 1, 2019