Never before has a spacecraft discovered something so far away. (Included: NASA New Horizons)
NASA & # 39; s New Horizons probe has flown past Ultima Thule – a ball of dust and ice that is 6.5 billion kilometers away from Earth.
Most important points:
- It will take months for NASA to receive data from today's fly-by
- Scientists had not yet discovered Ultima Thule when the probe was launched in 2006 on its way to Pluto and its moons
- While Ultima Thule is the furthest object that NASA has explored, Voyager 1 and 2 are the furthest human-made objects of the Earth
It is the farthest away from the sun that a spacecraft has ever explored an object, with New Horizons needing more than 13 years to reach the rock.
The New Horizons probe was scheduled to reach the "third zone" in the unknown heart of the Kuiper belt on Tuesday morning, with scientists anxiously waiting for official confirmation via the probe communication system.
During the celebration at the headquarters of NASA, the lead researcher Alan Stern said it would take months to receive data from today's fly-by.
"This actually starts with the downlink and transmissions that start tomorrow and last a year and a half," he said.
"We have set a record, never before has a spacecraft explored something so far away.
"Think about it – we are a billion miles beyond Pluto."
Participating in the celebrations of enthusiastic scientists was Brian May, who is a guitarist with rock band Queen and also an astrophysicist.
"I can not believe what we're going to see, it's about having no idea what we're going to see, what makes it so great, right?" Mei said.
"This is completely unknown territory, which makes us all so enthusiastic at the moment."
Queen-guitarist Brian May was one of the enthusiastic scientists who celebrated the feat. (Reuters: NASA / Bill Ingalls)
New Horizons, launched in January 2006, began a four billion mile journey to the icy edge of the solar system to study the dwarf planet Pluto and its five moons.
New Horizons explored Pluto when it flew past the dwarf planet three years ago.
Scientists had not discovered Ultima Thule when the probe was launched, according to NASA, which makes the mission unique in that respect.
In 2014 astronomers found Thule using the Hubble Space Telescope and selected it for the extended mission of New Horizon in 2015.
While Ultima Thule is the furthest object that NASA has researched, the New Horizon probe of the office is not the furthest human-made object of the earth.
Voyager 1 and 2 have both reached the interstellar space, the area between the stars, which exceeded the threshold in August 2012 and November 2018 respectively.
Illustration showing spacecraft travels in the solar system
(Included: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI / Magda Saina)
ABC / Reuters