The New Horizons probe made a successful flyby of the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule today. (See earlier preview posting.) It will take several weeks for all of the high resolution images and data to be downloaded from the distant spacecraft. The first high-res flyby views will come out in a day or two. Today a blurry “pre-flyby” image was released: New Horizons Successfully Explores Ultima Thule: NASA Spacecraft Reaches Most Distant Target in History – JHAPL

At left is a composite of two images taken by New Horizons’ high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which provides the best indication of Ultima Thule’s size and shape so far. Preliminary measurements of this Kuiper Belt object suggest it is approximately 20 miles long by 10 miles wide (32 kilometers by 16 kilometers). An artist’s impression at right illustrates one possible appearance of Ultima Thule, based on the actual image at left. The direction of Ultima’s spin axis is indicated by the arrows. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI; sketch courtesy of James Tuttle Keane

Here is a video of a briefing held today at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (JHUAPL), which manages the NASA-funded project (the panel discussion starts at ~23:00):

The New Horizons team shares the first image of Ultima Thule, as well as updates on spacecraft status and flyby success, from the Mission Operations Center at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab.

Panelists include Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, Southwest Research Institute; Alice Bowman, New Horizons mission operations manager, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory; Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory; Chris Hersman, New Horizons mission systems engineer, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

The former Queen guitarist and professional astrophysicist Brian May was at JHUAPL for the event and he released a new song in honor of the New Horizons mission: Queen’s rock-star astrophysicist Brian May debuts anthem for a far-out trip – GeekWire

More about the flyby:


Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto