The Ultima Thule Flyby

Ultima Thule is a nickname for the Kuiper Belt Object known as 2104 MU69. The picture above is an overlay of 5 images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The images were taken at 10-minute intervals on 24 June, 2014. The positions of 2014 MU69 in the images are shown by the green circles.

On New Year’s Day, 2019, the New Horizons spacecraft will fly by Ultima Thule. The science objectives of the flyby include imaging the KBO to determine its shape, geology, and surface composition. The surrounding environment will be scanned to detect any possible moons, coma, or rings.

New Horizons made its first detection of 2014 MU69 on 16 August, 2018, at a distance 172 million km. At that time, 2014 MU69 appeared as a magnitude 20 object from New Horizon‘s point of view. It won’t appear at naked eye brightness (magnitude 6) until the spacecraft is within 3 to 4 hours of closest approach.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA

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