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12/31/2018 – Ephemeris – New Year 2019 – A new solar system body is being explored right now!

December 31, 2018

Ephemeris for New Years Eve, Monday, December 31st. The Sun will rise at 8:20. It’ll be up for 8 hours and 51 minutes, setting at 5:11. The Moon, 2 days past last quarter, will rise at 3:54 tomorrow morning.

Later tonight the New Horizons spacecraft, which flew by Pluto and its retinue of moons, will fly by Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule. It’s probably an odd looking contact binary body with lobes 12 ½ and 11 miles (20 & 18 km) in diameter. That’s the guess as of a week ago. It will pass this body by 1,366 miles (2200 km), traveling at over 32 thousand miles an hour (52,000 kph). The spacecraft will pass closest approach at 33 minutes after the ball drops in Times Square. Nearly 4 hours later it will phone home. We won’t receive that message here on Earth until 10:28 a.m. due to the over 6 hours of time it takes the radio signal to reach Earth. We should get the first images by tomorrow night.  The New Horizons spacecraft was built and is flown by Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (JHAPL) is collaboration with NASA and the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

The times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan. They may be different for your location.


Path of New Horizons

The Trajectory and position of New Horizons as it approached 2014 MU69 two months ago showing some of the KBOs recently discovered near its path. Credit JHAPL.

Ultima Thule silhouette

Silhouette of KBO 2014 MU69 (Ultima Thule) created by occultation timings on July 17, 2017 from southern Argentina.  Credit NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker.

Links to information can be found here:  http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/Where-to-Watch.php.

A cool app to follow New Horizons in real-time or to preview its passage of Ultima Thule is NASA’s Eyes:  https://eyes.nasa.gov/.

NASA's Eyes

NASA’s Eyes screen Captured as a real-time simulation as I write this post. At this time two instruments are active, LORRI the long-range imager and ALICE the Ultraviolet imaging spectrometer. Click on the image to enlarge. Credit NASA/JPL


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