NASA's New Horizons spaceship is has reached the solar system`s outermost region and will fly past the farthest world ever photographed in human history on Tuesday, New Year Day. The spacecraft is inching closer to the Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 - nicknamed Ultima Thule.
Kuiper Belt's is a circumstellar disc in the outer Solar System and consists of small bodies or remnants from the time Solar System was formed, including several icy objects, and dwarf planet Pluto. Ultima Thule, which literally means "beyond the known world", lies in the trans-Neptunian object located inside the Kuiper belt some four billion miles (6.4 billion kilometres) away.
“NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is on track to perform the farthest flyby in history, when it zips past a Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule - more than four billion miles from Earth - at 12:33 a.m. EST on January 1," the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory said in a statement on Sunday.
Later in a tweet, the space agency said, “RIGHT NOW, ~1 billion miles past Pluto, @NASANewHorizons is performing the most distant spacecraft flyby ever as it zooms past #UltimaThule, an icy, ancient rock in the Kuiper Belt.”
RIGHT NOW, ~1 billion miles past Pluto, @NASANewHorizons is performing the most distant spacecraft flyby ever as it zooms past #UltimaThule, an icy, ancient rock in the Kuiper Belt. Watch live coverage: https://t.co/oJKHgKpQjH pic.twitter.com/U30yazzigo
— NASA (@NASA) January 1, 2019
The New Horizons flyby of Ultima Thule is expected to help scientists better understand what conditions were like when our solar system formed billions of years ago.
The spacecraft would fly about three times closer to MU69 than it did to Pluto in July 2015.
New Horizons extended mission also includes observations of more than two-dozen other Kuiper Belt objects, as well as measurements of the plasma, gas and dust environment of the Kuiper Belt.