Ultima in View: NASA’s New Horizons Makes First Detection of Kuiper Belt Flyby Target

Mission team members were thrilled – if not a little surprised – that New Horizons’ telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) was able to see the small, dim object while still more than 100 million miles away, and against a dense background of stars. Taken Aug. 16 and transmitted home through NASA’s Deep Space Network over the following days, the set of 48 images marked the team’s first attempt to find Ultima with the spacecraft’s own cameras.

About New Horizons Mission:

New Horizons was launched on 19 January 2006 and has been traveling through space for the past nine years.

Just over a year after launch, it passed Jupiter and used the giant world’s gravity to boost its velocity, as well as making scientific observations. This boost shortened the time to reach Pluto by years.

The mission will complete what NASA calls the reconnaissance of the classical solar system, and it makes the U.S. the first nation to send a space probe to every planet from Mercury to Pluto. The probe has traveled more than 3 billion miles to reach Pluto.

New Horizon’s core science mission is to map the surfaces of Pluto and Charon, to study Pluto’s atmosphere and to take temperature readings.

The spacecraft was launched in 2006 before the big debate started over Pluto’s status as a planet. In August of that same year, the International Astronomical Union reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet.

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