Ultima Thule and New Horizons

Ultima Thule and New Horizons

What is the News?

  • NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has detected an anomaly related to its next flyby target — an icy world a billion kilometres past Pluto and more than 6.5 billion km from Earth.The New Horizons probe, which flew past Pluto in 2015, is set to encounter the Kuiper Belt object, referred to as 2014 MU69 — nicknamed Ultima Thule.


  • New Horizons will flyby it on New Year’s Eve and January 1. Among its approach observations over the past three months, the spacecraft has been taking hundreds of images to measure Ultima’s brightness and how it varies as the object rotates.

About Ultima Thule

  • 2014 MU69 – Ultima Thule is a trans-Neptunian object from the Kuiper belt located in the outermost regions of the Solar System.
  • It was discovered by astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope on 26 June 2014.
  • It measures approximately 30 km in diameter, and is irregularly shaped.
  • Ultima Thule has a reddish color, probably caused by exposure of hydrocarbons to sunlight over billions of years.
  • Ultima Thule belongs to a class of Kuiper belt objects called the “cold classicals”, which have nearly circular orbits with low inclinations to the solar plane.

About New Horizons

  • New Horizons is an interplanetary space probe that was launched as a part of NASA’s New Frontiers program.
  • The spacecraft was launched in 2006 with the
    • Primary mission to perform a flyby study of the Pluto system in 2015,
    • Secondary mission to fly by and study one or more other Kuiper belt objects (KBOs) in the decade to follow.
  • It is the fifth artificial object to achieve the escape velocity needed to leave the Solar System.

New Horizon’s core science mission is to map the surfaces of Pluto and Charon, to study Pluto’s atmosphere and to take temperature readings

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