Lots Moar Pixels!

Better resolutions pictures of Ultima Thule are now coming in from New Horizons. We can now tell that it’s a two-lob object, and the mission science team has named the two lobes “Ultima” and “Thule.”

There are about 28,000 pixels across this image of Ultima Thule. The image I posted yesterday contained 6 pixels.

Color data from the low-resolution camera has been overlaid with higher resolution imagery to produce this first color image.More data will be coming in over the coming weeks.

Stay tuned.

Ultima Thule Flyby Update

The New Horizons team at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory has been busy preparing for the spacecraft’s flyby of the Kuiper Belt Object nicknamed Ultima Thule on New Year’s Day. This update was posted on 28 December.

Video Credit: JHUAPL

BTW, Mrs Hoge and I met Alan Stern at a sushi bar in Columbia, Maryland, several years before New Horizons launched. We had been to a medical appointment and stopped for lunch, and he sat down a few seats down the bar from us. In the course of our  conversation, I found out that he was in the area to pitch the idea of the Pluto flyby mission to NASA, and I’ve been following the project’s progress ever since.

The Warmth of the Sun

The Parker Solar Probe is alive and well after skimming by the Sun at just 25 million km from the Sun’s surface. At its perihelion on 5 November, the spacecraft reached a top speed of almost 343,000 km/h, setting a new record for spacecraft speed. On subsequent orbits the spacecraft will repeatedly break its own speed record as it draws closer to the Sun and the its speed increases at perihelion.

Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab received the status beacon from the spacecraft at 21:46 UTC on the 7th indicating that the Probe is operating well with all instruments running and collecting science data and, if there were any minor issues, they were resolved autonomously by the spacecraft.

At perihelion the intense sunlight heated the Sun-facing side of the spacecraft’s Thermal Protection System to almost 450 C, hot enough to melt solder, but the spacecraft instruments and systems protected by the heat shield were generally kept in the around 25 C, a comfortable shirt-sleeve temperature. On the closet approach, the thermal shield will be exposed to a temperature around 1400 C.

It will be several weeks after the end of the solar encounter phase before the science data begins downlinking to Earth.

Video Credits: NASA / JHUAPL