NASA Spacecraft Completes Flyby of Distant World

Jan 1, 2019

Late last night, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by a small icy object at the edge of the solar system. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports, it’s now the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft.

Artist's impression of flyby
Credit NASA

The object is nicknamed Ultima Thule, which means ‘beyond the known world.’ Scientists think it’s a pristine piece left over from the solar system’s formation more than 4 billion years ago, offering a glimpse back in time.

The object is estimated to be less than 20 miles wide and has a dark red color. It has a lumpy shape and may actually be two objects in close orbit around each other.

Scientists will learn more about it as the spacecraft transmits data back to Earth over the next 20 months. New Horizons flew by Pluto in 2015 and is now a billion miles further into the Kuiper Belt.

Scientists are now awaiting confirmation of the flyby’s success.