by 👩💻 Stephanie Boyd
NASA probe survives flyby of the icy world known as Ultima Thule
The universe is an unimaginably colossal place. It is perhaps beyond our own comprehension just how huge the void around us truly is! Still, we continue to study and explore it. While we are aware of so many different galaxies, celestial bodies and even theoretical principles, we are yet to explore some of the many far-flung horizons that NASA and other enterprising agencies have strived to uncover. As for the mysterious, ancient orb known as Ultima Thule, arriving there has been a physical issue – as the shrouded body lies a billion miles beyond Pluto, far beyond the supposed edge of our solar system.
NASA’s New Horizons craft is continuing to reveal more and more about the far-flung Ultima, which is still thought to be orbiting the sun despite its enormous distance away. It has now completed its fly-by on New Year's Day 2019.
NASA Rang in the New Year With a Historic Flyby [video]
Ultima Thule is thought to be an ancient, icy object which is roughly 4.5 billion years old, meaning that it came into prominence around the same time as the rest of the solar system. It’s considered one of many objects in the Kuiper Belt, meaning that it makes up a ring of cold planets, stars and objects which lie just beyond Neptune. No one was quite sure what to expect from Ultima, particularly as up until recently, research proved inconclusive as to whether or not it was even a sphere. Photos and footage appear to suggest that clouds and/or additional moons may be helping to obscure the body’s true shape, meaning that we are in desperate need of further footage or snapshots so that we can get a better look at what lies beyond our reach.
“What will Ultima reveal?” NASA planetary expert Alan Stern wrote recently, “No one knows.”
During its flyby, New Horizons recorded several Gigabytes of photographs and scientific data which it will send back to Earth over the coming months.