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Science & Technology

NASA Spaceship Reaches Ultima Thule

  • 01 Jan 2019
  • 2 min read

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will fly past the icy object nicknamed Ultima Thule (TOO-lee) in Kuiper belt.

  • Ultima Thule is located 1.6 billion kilometers beyond Pluto and 6.4 billion kilometers from Earth.
  • The spacecraft will fly past within 3,500 kilometers of Ultima Thule.

Ultima Thule

  • This Kuiper Belt object was discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014.
  • Officially it is known as 2014 MU69 and is nicknamed as Ultima Thule.
  • Thule means the most distant places beyond the known world.

Significance

  • Ultima Thule will be the farthest object ever visited by a spacecraft.
  • Ultima Thule would have relics dating back to solar system’s origin 4.5 billion years ago. No spacecraft has visited anything so primitive. This will help in understanding the origins of our solar system.
  • The mission will also help in studying the Ultima Thule.

New Horizon

  • Launched: Jan. 19, 2006
  • Pluto Flyby: July 14, 2015
  • Ultima Thule Flyby: Jan. 1, 2019
  • Goal: Study Pluto, its moons, and Kuiper Belt objects.

Kuiper Belt

  • The Kuiper Belt (also known as the Edgeworth–Kuiper belt) is a region of the Solar System that exists beyond the eight major planets, extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun. (1 Astronomical Unit (AU) = distance between the Earth and the Sun)
  • It is similar to the asteroid belt, in that it contains many small bodies, all remnants from the Solar System’s formation.
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