Orbiting some 20,000 miles [35,786 km (22,236 mi) to be exact] above the Earth – much further than the International Space Station (245 miles) yet much closer than the Moon (c238,900 miles) – while perpetually fixed over the Eastern Hemisphere, Himawari-8 provides a unique perspective on the planet and its weather patterns. With the film’s haunting soundtrack and swirling imagery, it’s easy to get lost in the hypnotic clouds and forget that below them is half of humanity, rendered almost entirely invisible by the distance.
The mission team called it a “stretch goal” – just before closest approach, precisely point the cameras on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft to snap the sharpest possible pics of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule, its New Year’s flyby target and the farthest object ever explored.
Now that New Horizons has sent those stored flyby images back to Earth, the team can enthusiastically confirm that its ambitious goal was met.
These new images of Ultima Thule – obtained by the telephoto Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) just 6½ minutes before New Horizons’ closest approach to the object (officially named 2014 MU69) at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1 – offer a resolution of about 110 feet (33 meters) per pixel. Their combination of high spatial resolution and a favorable viewing angle gives the team an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the surface, as well as the origin and evolution, of Ultima Thule – thought to be the most primitive object ever encountered by a spacecraft.
“Bullseye!” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI). “Getting these images required us to know precisely where both tiny Ultima and New Horizons were — moment by moment – as they passed one another at over 32,000 miles per hour in the dim light of the Kuiper Belt, a billion miles beyond Pluto. This was a much tougher observation than anything we had attempted in our 2015 Pluto flyby.
And here is a clip of the fly-by:
New Horizons scientists created this movie from 14 different images taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) shortly before the spacecraft flew past the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule (officially named 2014 MU69) on Jan. 1, 2019. The central frame of this sequence was taken on Jan. 1 at 5:26:54 UT (12:26 a.m. EST), when New Horizons was 4,117 miles (6,640 kilometers) from Ultima Thule, some 4.1 billion miles (6.6 billion kilometers) from Earth. Ultima Thule nearly completely fills the LORRI image and is perfectly captured in the frames, an astounding technical feat given the uncertain location of Ultima Thule and the New Horizons spacecraft flying past it at over 32,000 miles per hour.
(Note: To loop the video, right button click on it and select “Loop” from the list of options shown.)
Here are the two parts of the documentary, New Horizons – Summiting the Solar System, about the New Horizons fly-by of Ultima Thule:
Summiting the Solar System is a story of exploration at its most ambitious and extreme. On January 1, 2019, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flies by a small Kuiper Belt Object known scientifically as 2014 MU69, but nicknamed “Ultima Thule.” Ultima is four billion miles from Earth, and will be the most ancient and most distant world ever explored close up. It is expected to offer discoveries about the origin and evolution of our solar system. Chosen by the team and the public, the nickname honors the mythical land beyond the edges of the known world. But “Summiting” is much more than the story of a sophisticated, plutonium-fueled robotic spacecraft exploring far from the Sun. The New Horizons mission is powered as much by the passions of a small team of humans—men and women, scientists and engineers—for whom pushing the frontiers of the known, climbing the very peaks of the possible, has been the dream of many decades.
“Summiting” goes behind the scenes of the most ambitious occultation campaigns ever mounted, as scientists deployed telescopes to Senegal and Colombia in 2018, and Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand in 2017, to glimpse Ultima as it passed in front of a star, and gathered data on the object’s size and orbit that has been essential to planning the flyby. Mission scientists recall the astonishing scientific success of flying through the Pluto system in 2015, and use comparative planetology to show how Earth and Pluto are both amazingly different and—with glaciers, tall mountains, volcanoes and blue skies—awesomely similar. Appealing to space junkies and adrenaline junkies alike, “Summiting” brings viewers along for the ride of a lifetime as New Horizons pushes past Pluto and braves an even more hazardous unknown.
The goal of this challenge is to create an inspiring environment for astronauts before they head out on space missions. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is seeking submissions for original artwork to be displayed on a wall within the Astronaut Crew Quarters. The area is one of the last places astronauts will spend time before heading for the launch pad. Artwork on display may be visible during NASA video coverage of crew departure
The Challenge begins: February 15, 2019 Submission Period: February 15 – April 30, 2019 (300 dpi image, 12” x 18”) Judging Period: May 1 – June 1, 2019 Winners Notified No Later Than: June 7, 2019 Winners Final Submission Due: June 28, 2019 (110 dpi image, 4’ x 6’ via CD/DVD) Winners Announced: Summer 2019
In addition to seeing the work hung in the Astronaut Crew Quarters, the winner will also receive an
Invitation for artist and up to 3 guests to attend a Commercial Crew launch at Kennedy Space Center (NASA not responsible for travel arrangements)
** New documentary profiles Chesley Bonestell, who created many iconic depictions of space and space travel that were particularly influential in the years leading up to the start of the Space Age. The new documentary film, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush with the Future, tells the story of his life and the impact that his work had on space artists, space pioneers, and the general public’s perception of space travel.
On February 22, 23, & 24, 2019 Boulder Ballet is celebrating the landmark achievements of the New Horizons space mission with four special performances of New Horizons. These performances, featuring Boulder Ballet company dancers, honor NASA’s New Horizons Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission. We’ve taken the beauty and mystery of space, the courage of exploration, the fragility and strength of humanity and mixed it with a dynamic score by a local award-winning composer and exciting choreography by a Boulder dancer/choreographer, creating a ballet that will take the audience on a journey of time and space. The music has been composed by award-winning composer Paul Fowler, music professor at Naropa University and the choreography is by Claire Davison, a Boulder Ballet alum now dancing with American Ballet Theatre.
These performances will also feature a piece choreographed by Associate Artistic Director Lance Hardin and Assistant School Director Amy Earnest to electronic music composed by Michael Schulze, a teaching associate professor at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music. A third piece will be the audience favorite “Tropes” from the FACES of Boulder Ballet show presented in September, choreographed by company member Ryland Early.
The opening night post-performance celebration will be a unique opportunity to meet some of the local scientists who brought the New Horizons mission to life along with the artists who, through this performance, recognize this unparalleled accomplishment. We are excited and truly privileged to be bringing this unique combination of science and art—a perfect example of STEAM—to the Boulder community.
Here are the first three short films in a series underway at DUST called Glimpse, each offering a view of the impact of a future technology:
If you could control all your devices from a tattoo on your arm, would you feel safer? What if that sense of security was an illusion? “Circuits” presents a glimpse into the future of…body modification.
** “The Stork”
The birth of a child makes every parent nervous. Technology makes the process safer, but our biological impulse to worry still seeps into the experience – no matter what. “The Stork” is a glimpse into the future of…birth.
** “Sebastian Moller”
What happens when a chef takes his craft from experimental to extreme? What would you pay to savor a food that’s never been tasted before? “Sebastian Moller” is a glimpse into the future of…haute cuisine.