The American space probe New Horizons flew past an asteroid on Tuesday, as intended. That happened at 6.6 billion kilometers from the earth.
Never before has an object been studied so far away from close by. The probe has measured the Ultima Thule rock in all sorts of ways up close. Then he sent a life sign to the earth. The hard disk is full of data, which will be sent little by little in the coming years, according to the mission line.
The New Horizons was launched in 2006. On Tuesday morning he came to about 3500 kilometers from the asteroid. In addition, the probe had a speed of about 52,000 kilometers per hour. There are seven instruments on board. They have to teach scientists, among other things, what Ultima Thule consists of, because it can tell something about our own planet.
From the first images it looks like Ultima Thule looks like a cone of 32 kilometers long and 16 kilometers wide. But it could also be that it is actually two objects, which rotate around each other at a short distance.
Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May is also involved in the project (Photo: ANP)
New Horizons previously flew past Pluto
The first goal of the mission was Pluto. In July 2015, the New Horizons flew past that dwarf planet. There he discovered miles-high mountain ranges and directions for an underground ocean. After the visit to Pluto, the New Horizons was still in such a good condition that the flight control decided to extend the journey with an extra destination. That became Ultima Thule, about 1.5 billion kilometers away.
If the probe continues to work, the flight control will again shave along a space rock in a few years, even further away. That destination has not yet been selected. Around 2047 the New Horizons reaches the edge of our solar system, but then it probably does not work anymore.
Aboard the probe is also the axis of the man who discovered Pluto in 1930, the American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh (1906-1997)
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