Next news briefing is at 7pm
Hopefully we'll see some of the first encounter images (low res) this evening at around 7pm UK time (2pm ET) as that's the next scheduled one on NASA TV
NASA's teenage New Horizons probe has successfully passed within 2,200 miles of 2014 MU69, some four billion miles from the Sun, three years after taking a close look at Pluto and nearly 13 years after launch. Nicknamed "Ultima Thule" (meaning "beyond the known world"), the object is thought to be a remnant from the formation …
"How wonderful it is that such feats have become sufficiently routine I'm no longer amazed by them (although I remain suitably impressed). Top notch engineering and astroboffinry"
I fully agree and project leader Alan Stern has proposed that New Horizons does more flybys of other Kuiper Belt objects which would be good news.
It's not that. It's a semi-mythical land at the end of the world. The name goes back to the Greeks, but of course it's a lot more remote and exotic than anything in the Odyssey.
By going to the end of the world, NASA seems to be saying they can have no possible ambition to go any further.
.. unless the probe is shot down by the defences guarding the Thule Society's sekret base. Secret societies just ain't what they used to be.. unless modern ones have somehow managed to stay secret.
But I digress. Impressive feat of engineering and astronavigation to find a small rock, a loooong way from home. The naming's a bit suspect though, ie if we find something further out, does it get renamed Penultimate Thule? I also like the idea that the rock could contain cryogenically frozen stuff from the formation of our solar system. Next challenge, figure out how to send samples back. Or a bigger probe with sample extraction and analysis kit onboard.
Delta-V... It's whizzing past at some ungodly speed, so first problem is catch a sample. 2nd is Delta-V back to our vicinity then Delta-V to get into LEO. The fusion drive, when it comes, will obviously solve all of those problems. Where's Mr Spock when you need him?
This is great and a leap for science. Brilliant and look forward to seeing the images.
But why are these rocks in space described as "ancient" and "unchanged" that could "explain how the solar system was formed". Sorry, but the Earth is also 4+ billion years old and these rocks experience bombardment by other rocks and solar particles and radiation as well as interstellar radiation, so they can hardly be described a "primeval" and as "when the solar system was formed". Yes, they won't have experienced weathering like the Earth does, but still, it is a mistake to assume that they are essentially unchanged. The other thing is that conditions in the Kuiper belt may not be anything like the conditions the Earth experienced in its formation.
Large inner solar-system objects ike Earth have a lot of things going on that Kuiper-belt objects do not. Apart from the amount of energy being pumped out from the sun, which tends to un-freeze a lot of stuff that would otherwise be frozen in the outer solar-system, the Earth is large enough to have things like plate tectonics going on, not to mention that pesky life thing. The inner solar system is also orders of magnitude busier than the Kuiper Belt, so collisions are much much more common, especially ones involving planetary-sized bodies. We can gain some information from things that hit the Earth (such as chondritic meteorites), but only after they have been cooked by aero-braking, and then battered by litho-braking. That tends to alter the chemical and physical properties quite substantially.
The amount of 'weathering' outer solar-system objects will have receved will be largely limited to the effects of solar wind particles, and the further you get from the Sun, the less those effects will be.
Indeed. For one example, the oldest rocks known on Earth are zircons (actually small crystals), https://www.livescience.com/43584-earth-oldest-rock-jack-hills-zircon.html and even these date from over 100 million years after the earth was formed. The bit we stand on is literally the crust, inside it's very hot, and over time most things get cycled round and melted.
This presents the problem as to how to nudge it into a suitable earth grilling trajectory using a close solar fly-by, and then how to efficiently coat it in bbq sauce.
(Of course with a suitable final re-entry sear, possibly with help from Bruce Willis, and subsequently an end to world starvation. Try digging that bone up in 10 million years - obviously the dinosaurs evolved into something rather tasty).
Which may just be the fact you can pack a lot more science in a lot smaller weight.
I note also the shift in technology. From 4bit parallel/18 bit serial processors with custom instruction sets to rad hard but OTS processors.
Let us hope it keeps going for a long while yet.
I'm pretty sure it wasn't
The launch film shows an Atlas V with a bunch of smallish SRB's on the base but the Voyagers were sent on 2 Titan's with monster SRB's
Looking up the on orbit masses NH was about 65% of either Voyager (I'd guessed it was smaller)
So it looks like the big thing was the trajectory plan (especially Jupiter)
Nicknamed "Ultima Thule" (meaning "beyond the known world")
One of my Latin dictionaries defines "thule" as "island in the extreme North (perhaps Shetland". Another Latin dictionary says, "island located in the extreme North, perhaps Iceland or part of Scandinavia". Seems appropriate.
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Will it have to be renamed when NH has an encounter with something further away, because it no longer will be.
I'm thinking of the two competitive laboratories where one gave a lecture on "High Vacuum" and the Director of the other asked "Can be give a lecture on 'Higher Vacuums'? "
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