Archive for January 14, 2019

01/14/2019 – Ephemeris – New Horizons returned first images of Ultima Thule

January 14, 2019 1 comment

Ephemeris for Monday, January 14th. The Sun will rise at 8:17. It’ll be up for 9 hours and 9 minutes, setting at 5:26. The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 2:04 tomorrow morning.

On January 1st, just after midnight eastern time the New Horizons spacecraft made its closest pass of the small Kuiper Belt Object 2014 Mu69, nicknamed Ultima Thule. At just about 10:30 that morning the expected phone home came back over 4 billion miles, and 6 hours travel time from a 15 watt transmitter on the spacecraft. New Horizons was in perfect health an its data recorders were full. It will take 20 months at a thousand bits per second to relay all that information back to Earth. Though we’ll get better pictures to come, Ultima Thule is a contact binary of two nearly spherical bodies that collided very gently. It looks like a snowman of reddish-brown snow. It fits the silhouette made by it passing in front of a star back in 2017.

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


First closeup of Ultima Thule

Ultima Thule on approach combing a low resolution color image with the high resolution monochromatic image shows the body in almost true color. Credit NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI


Pre-encounter occultation attempts of Ultima Thule. Continued caption from the Vatican Observatory Foundation Blog: “The colored lines mark the path of a star as seen from different telescopes on each day; the blank spaces on those lines indicate the few seconds when MU69 blocked the light from the star. Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI / James Tuttle Keane”

Note from the image:  The term “astrometry” (pronounced as-trom-e-try) is the science of measuring the precise positions and motions of celestial bodies.

The New Horizons spacecraft went into solar conjunction from January 4th to the 9th.  Meaning it was too close to the direction of the Sun to send of receive data due to the Sun’s radio interference.  On the night of the 9th I noticed that on the DNS-Now website that the big antenna at Canberra Australia was in contact with it.  So more data is flowing down!