An Artist’s impression of New Horizon visiting Ultima Thule. Image Credit: NASA

New Horizon, NASA’s spacecraft that last visited Pluto, shall go where no other probe has ever been before on the very beginning of New Year’s Day. The spacecraft is set to visit an unknown icy world which is six billion km away, right at the edge of our solar system.

Ultima Thule that the probe will be visiting tonight is officially known as 2014 MU69, which means “beyond the known world,” and was named after a naming contest held by NASA.

The probe, which has reached its current destination in 13 years, was launched on the 1st of January 2006. Once the probe fies by Ultima Thule, it will officially be the farthest object ever to be reached by a human made spacecraft.

According to the plan, the probe will fly by Ultima Thule at an incredible speed of 15kms/per second at 05:33am GMT on New Year’s Day just within 3.540 km of this new world.

To this day, NASA’s spacecraft has travelled over 6 billion kms, since it was launched in 2006.

I think the obvious question is why are the scientist at NASA so excited about an object that is only 30 km wide? Alan Stern, the head investigator on this project explained:

“This is a time capsule that is going to take us four and a half billion years back to the birth of the solar system,”

He also said:

“Across the whole team, people are ready, they’re in the game, we can’t wait to go exploring,” and added, “It’s been three-and-a-half years (since the Pluto flyby), we’ve worked so hard, people are ready to see that payoff and see what we can learn about the birth of our solar system.”

Hopefully, within the following days, we will have some amazing photos of Ultima Thule.

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Source: NASA