New Horizons, the spacecraft for the first remote pluton, illuminates another world, a small body of 6.5 million kilometers of Earth.
New Year's Day at 12:33 a.m. ET, spacecraft will arrive at the MU69 2014, giving an informal name of Ultima Thule, an object of 30 km wide part of the Kuiper Belt. The region is a disk of ice objects throughout Neptune's orbit.
It will be one of the most distant regions ever visited by a spacecraft.
"We are in the last section," said Alan Stern, the senior researcher at the New Horizons Research Research Institute, a non-profit organization in Texas. "We have never seen an object against the Kuiper Belt. We have no idea about the geologist, how they evolved, how they were built, what they are doing."
The Nuclear passed through Pluto, considering the ninth planet and now considering the dwarf planet and the Kuiper Belt in July 2015. Stern He has ratified Pluto's remorse.
Clarifying his secrets
When New Horizons passed through Pluto – it's much bigger than 2,380 km in diameter in the world.
Amongst some discoveries, Pluto has been geologically active in the past; it has a thicker atmosphere than hope (and it's blue); And nitrogen glaciers and ice floats move.
When New Horizons goes to Ultima Thule at 14 km / h On January 1, there will be more than 3,500 kilometers, with images that have more resolution than Pluto.
Stern requires more surprises.
"We're looking for rings. We'll look [moons]. We'll see if there is an atmosphere, "said Stern. Much of the composition and geology and how it was built. How [did] The planets block buildings are now 4 million years old. This is the best sample of the time, the formation of the planet, whatever it was. "
Pluto has been the only other object, but Stern says it has undergone a geological evolution, so it has not been fully conserved.
"Ultima is our first and, for now, chance to get the chance to get our capsule in one of the best stages of our planet," he said.
Getting to the body of more than four million kilometers and the size of Fort McMurray is not an easy task.
"Ultimate is 100 times smaller than Pluto, so it's 10,000 times slower," said Stern. "This means it is much more difficult to navigate, keep track of and have a lot of home access."
After selecting Ultima Thule among the candidates, the Hubble Space Telescope could keep track of the object by scientists, to fire the New Horizons engines and change their route. When closer, track your camera in the boat.
But tracking was not the only challenge: because the spacecraft is so far away, there is less room for hot appliances, so there are more voltages. Also, it is far from the Earth.
"The communication time spent four and a half hours in every way for six hours each way. It's a 12-hour trip," said Stern. "We are playing a chess game, each movement lasts 12 hours, something with remote control [6.5 kilometres away] and there is no shelter ".
Stern is excited to look for a new goal to send New Horizons to follow Ultima Thule's visit.
"Mission has been a compelling and successful experience," said Stern.
The public is invited to participate in the mission Ultima Thule sending a message.