New Horizons helped assess the size of the farthest object in the solar system

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On January 1, the American space probe New Horizons flew near the asteroid 2014 MU69 Ultima Thule. Recall that this is the farthest object in the solar system ever visited by a spacecraft. Astronomers estimated the size of the asteroid and demonstrated the images taken by the probe.
 

 
The maximum convergence of the probe with the asteroid occurred at 8:33 Moscow time.

“A billion miles behind Pluto, the New Horizons probe has made the most distant rapprochement, flying past an ice-covered ancient stone in the Kuiper belt,” NASA said.

According to calculations, the distance between the probe and the asteroid at the time of the closest approach was only 3,500 kilometers. Earlier, mission supervisor Alan Stern (Alan Stern) reported that on the cameras installed on the device, the asteroid will be the same size as the full moon when viewed from Earth. In this case, the probe swept past Ultima Tule at a speed of 51 thousand kilometers per hour (about 15 kilometers per second).

The first data collected by the device reached our planet approximately 10 hours after approach. In a press release, NASA also reported that the information New Horizons collected about the object studied will be sent to Earth over the next 20 months.

Scientists have already estimated the shape and size of the asteroid. Presumably, its length is about 32 kilometers, and its width is 16 kilometers. The red arrow in the illustration below shows the axis of rotation of Ultima Tule (also shows the approximate position of the spacecraft relative to the studied object).
 

On the left – a composite image of the asteroid, obtained using the camera LORRI. The right shows the approximate form of Ultima Thule.
Photos of NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI. James Tuttle Keane, right side sketcher.
 
We add that the asteroid 2014 MU69 was discovered using the Hubble orbital telescope, which was announced in 2014.

In March 2018, NASA on the basis of Internet voting previously tentatively named it Ultima Thule (Ultima Thule), which means “the end of the world.” As noted in the agency, until now, researchers know almost nothing about this cosmic body.

Scientists consider such missions as “archaeological excavations of the solar system,” since the objects in the Kuiper belt are the same as they were at the time of the birth of the solar system. Thanks to the New Horizons apparatus, they expect to receive new data on how similar space bodies were formed, whether they have satellites and rings.

The probe “New Horizons”, which is considered the fastest ever launched by earthlings, launched into space in January 2006. A year later, he passed by Jupiter at a record close distance of 2.3 million kilometers, transmitting to the Earth valuable information about the planet’s atmosphere and magnetosphere, as well as satellite data. As expected, the Kuiper belt research apparatus will continue until 2021.