New Horizons Probe to Fly By Strange Kuiper Belt Object Tonight

AlphaAtlas

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NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which launched way back in 2006 and took some gorgeous shots of Pluto in 2015, is set to make a close flyby of a Kuiper Belt object close to New Year's Eve. According to SpaceFlightNow, New Horizons will pass by Ultima Thule at 12:33AM EST, but the data will take several hours to get to Earth traveling at the speed of light.

Several YouTubers are livestreaming the flyby, and you can check out one of them here.

One of the main mysteries so far in the approach to Ultima Thule has been that New Horizons has not observed any light curve, or change in brightness, from the object. Scientists expected to see Ultima Thule dimming and brightening as it rotated, New Horizons has not detected any change... "There's nothing else on the books to do anything like this," Weaver said. "I don't think I'll be alive when the next cold classical Kuiper Belt Object is encountered, so we're all looking forward to this flyby. In that respect, this is the frontier of planetary science... As a civilization, we’re stepping out into this third zone of the solar system that was not even discovered until the early 1990s." Scientists have brought sleeping bags, pillows, and even a tent to camp out here at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, as New Horizons speeds toward Ultima Thule - its next target after Pluto.
 

Armenius

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On approach.
Ultima_Thule_approach_video1.gif
 
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NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which launched way back in 2006 and took some gorgeous shots of Pluto in 2015, is set to make a close flyby of a Kuiper Belt object close to New Year's Eve. According to SpaceFlightNow, New Horizons will pass by Ultima Thule at 12:33AM EST, but the data will take several hours to get to Earth traveling at the speed of light.

This gives you a real idea of the incredible distances involved here. It'll take the signal a bit over 5.5 hours to reach Earth at the speed of light! (Light from our sun reaches us in a mere 8.3 minutes by comparison) Add to the speed of light delay, the transmission bandwidth limitations that are also going to adding some time towards getting all the data across. Pretty remarkable!
 

lostin3d

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Here's one every family or couple could relate to- SBD or Silent But Deadly ;)
 

Etherton

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why stay up till 12:33 AM when it will take an additional 5 hours to even get the first amount of data from it? Ill check back the next day thanks

Just because it takes us 5.5 hours to get the signal back doesn't mean they are bound by it.
 

Mega6

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Though the team celebrated the moment with cheers, there's still plenty of work to do. The spacecraft is yet to beam back any data that will show exactly how the mission progressed. Sending that crucial information back to Earth will take approximately six hours and a signal acquisition is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. EST, January 1. Then, as science results begin to trickle in, NASA will hold two press conferences detailing its findings at 2 p.m. EST on January 2 and January 3.

In total, the entire data package will take about 20 months to be sent back to Earth.

https://www.cnet.com/google-amp/new...ecraft-completes-historic-ultima-thule-flyby/
 
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^^^ That would really suck as the probe only has a 15 watt transmitter with a bandwidth that tops out at 1 kbit per sec. Sending all the imagery/data captured by its flyby is expected to take until September 2020... So, getting hit by even something small would definitely jeopardize sending the the data back.

On the bright side, space out there is freak'n HUGE, with object dispersion that much, much greater then even the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Odds of running into something in the Kuiper asteroid belt are very, very slim.
 
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Derangel

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so how long before its hit by a piece of 'space debris' and rendered non functional?

While its not impossible for that to happen, the area is supposed to be fairly frozen with very little movement. If all goes well, it should be safe for the time it takes to transmit all the data back.
 
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