Ultima Thule tracking thread

Space probe New Horizons, last in the news during its 2015 Pluto flyby is fast approaching distance space object Ultima Thule aka 2014 MU69. It is about 12 to 22 miles wide with a darkish complexion.

33 minutes past midnight on New Years Day (Eastern Time) the probe will woosh past at its closest point, 2200 miles away from the asteroid or rather the “Kuiper Belt Object”. Report comes in about 9 hours later, touch wood.

This thread is for comments, questions and general Dopesplaining.

NYT article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/31/science/ultima-thule-pictures-new-horizons.html

NASA website: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/

You Tube Channel live broadcast: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory - YouTube

Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/NASANewHorizons?ref_src=twsrc^tfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fpluto.jhuapl.edu%2F

Was expecting a roof rack thread.


Wikipedia on Thule: Thule was the place located furthest north, which was mentioned in ancient Greek and Roman literature and cartography.

In classical and medieval literature, ultima Thule (Latin “furthermost Thule”) acquired a metaphorical meaning of any distant place located beyond the “borders of the known world”.[2]

By the late middle ages and early modern era, the Greco-Roman Thule was often identified with the real Iceland or Greenland. Sometimes Ultima Thule was a Latin name for Greenland, when Thule was used for Iceland.[3] By the late 19th century, however, Thule was frequently identified with Norway.[4][5]

In 1910, the explorer Knud Rasmussen established a missionary and trading post in north-western Greenland, which he named “Thule” (later Qaanaaq).

Modern interpretations of the ancient Greek and Roman place name have included Orkney, Shetland, the island of Saaremaa (Ösel) in Estonia,[6][7] and the Norwegian island of Smøla.[8] Thule - Wikipedia

Yep, the bloody thing hooned past me only last week going like the clappers, with it’s lights on high beam, chucking donuts and slewing all over the space lanes with Born in the USA blaring from the boom box. Big Brother is going to be mightily pissed if they try that malarkey on him.

WAPO: Not only is Ultima Thule the most distant planetary object ever explored, but it is also among the most primitive. Unlike planets, which are transformed by geologic forces in their interiors, and asteroids, which are heated by the sun, Ultima Thule is thought to have existed in a “deep freeze" since it first formed. https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2018/12/31/most-distant-space-encounter-history-is-happening-now/?utm_term=.c3b48c21add6

So it’s a fossil from the solar system’s earliest history.

Sounds like the “Final Boss” that must be defeated before leaving the solar system.

I am a tad disappointed in the direction it is headed, but maybe it lacks some of the specific instruments for what interests me. We need a probe that can go very fast in the other direction, to gather information on the structure of the heliotail, if there is such a thing. Hard sell, that, though.

Despite what that Washington Post article suggests, this rock did not form in the part of the Solar System it’s currently in. It almost certainly formed somewhere much closer to the Sun and, due to interactions with the giant planets, migrated out there.

That’s true of everything that far out. The Solar Nebula, a disk of gas and dust around the proto-Sun, was way too thin that far away from the Sun for large objects (meaning anything larger than a grain of sand) to form. So comets, Kuiper Belt Objects, and Oort Cloud objects, even Neptune and Uranus, all came from closer in.

A Brian May music video to celebrate the event.

New horizons survived, and is now transmitting to earth. Images and other data to come (over 6 light hours of low band width…)

It seems a rather drastic and expensive method to investigate a fellow Doper. :stuck_out_tongue:

Moderator Action

Since this is already being discussed in another thread, I will just close this and direct further comments here:



A mod closed my thread, saying this thread covers the topic, but no one posted today’s update, so I will point to it here:


Without knowing better, if I were asked about it in a trivia quiz I would have guessed it was one of the bad Transformers.

Moderator Note

Threads have been merged. This post and the post following it were originally a separate thread.


New Horizons will create about 50 Gigabytes of data during the flyby, which will be broadcast to Earth through September 2020. As for the nearer future: The resolution will improve each day, so you can watch as Ultima Thule is transformed from a barely resolved object into a new world never seen before.** In the images posted on Jan. 1, Ultima is expected to be approximately 3 pixels across, but it will grow to approximately 100 pixels across for the images posted on Jan. 2**, and approximately 200 pixels across for the images posted on Jan. 3.

The team will continue posting LORRI images within 24 hours of their receipt on the ground during the first two weeks of January 2019, provided NASA has approved their release. After that, images received at the New Horizons Science Operations Center through each Tuesday at 5 pm ET will be posted on the following Friday. The date/time in the image caption is when the picture was taken by the spacecraft, though receipt of the data on Earth could be many days later. Emphasis added.

View the pics as they come in here. Currently I’d say that U.T. is a blob within a 4x4 pixel square. http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/soc/UltimaThule-Encounter/

Hm, looks like the latest images on that page are still 1-2 pixel wide images from 12/31. But this page has a much better resolution image that clearly shows that Ultima Thule is a contact binary (or a giant penis).

If that impression holds up at higher resolution, we should re-christen the object Bulwer-Lytton.

Does anyone find it a bit breathtaking that we were able to spot a 20x10 mile bowling pin in the darkness from over 40 AU away?