Best Wishes from Around the World ‘Beamed’ Toward New Horizons in Kuiper Belt

In this animated GIF of Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule made from two images taken 38 minutes apart, the “Thule” lobe is closest to the New Horizons spacecraft. As Ultima Thule is seen to rotate, hints of the topography can be perceived. The images were taken by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at 4:23 and 5:01 Universal Time on January 1, 2019 from respective ranges of 38,000 miles (61,000 kilometers) and 17,000 miles (28,000 kilometers), with respective original scales of 1017 feet (310 meters) and 459 feet (140 meters) per pixel. (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

LAUREL, Md. (NASA PR) — NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by a small, distant world in the Kuiper Belt on New Year’s Day – the place, officially designated 2014 MU69 and nicknamed Ultima Thule, is 4 billion miles from Earth. No spacecraft has ever explored a world so far away.

Several weeks before that flyby the New Horizons team gave people around the world the opportunity to “beam” their name and a choice of messages, at the speed of light, toward New Horizons and Ultima Thule on flyby day – ¬and 30,547 people ultimately signed on. “Happy 2019!” was the top choice, selected by 8,100 participants, followed by “Keep on Exploring!” sent by 6,800 participants.

Transmitted on New Year’s Eve from the satellite communications facility at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland – where New Horizons was built and is operated – the signals carrying the messages reached New Horizons just hours before the flyby, then continued on past Ultima Thule and through the Kuiper Belt.

“Never before has the public had an opportunity to have their names and messages across our entire solar system on the historic day of the farthest exploration of worlds in human history,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator and “Beam Me” project originator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado.

New Horizons’ closest approach to Ultima Thule occurred at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1, when it zipped approximately 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) from the object. The spacecraft sent back the first close-up images of its Kuiper Belt target in the following days, confirming that Ultima Thule is a contact binary, and offering tantalizing hints of the science to come.

Follow New Horizons on its voyage through the Kuiper Belt at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/Mission/Where-is-New-Horizons.php.

  • Saturn1300

    CW rotation. By the blurry to clear images. Since the blurry one is 1st since it is farther away. I guess space objects can rotate either direction.

  • Saturn1300

    http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/New_nanosatellite_system_captures_better_imagery_at_lower_cost_999.html
    Of course. Not enough area for faint objects though Like this one. Make a 300m telescope with just a few mirrors on the edge. Cheap and can be lite. A space telescope with this might work very well. Maybe cube sats flying formation. Maybe a star blocker and a long exposure would show the planets.
    Maybe I will buy some 3″ mirror blanks, make a 3′ or so frame. Some grit and rotating arm and make one. A 9″ mirror ought to be good enough for Mars. I like cheap.