2014 MU69

Ultima Thule (nickname)
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    Jan. 1, 2019: NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew past Ultima Thule in the early hours of New Year's Day, ushering in the era of exploration from the enigmatic Kuiper Belt, a region of primordial objects that holds keys to understanding the origins of the solar system.

    MU69.
    This image of MU69 was taken just 30 minutes before closest approach from a range of 18,000 miles (28,000 kilometers). Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

    "Congratulations to NASA's New Horizons team, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the Southwest Research Institute for making history yet again. In addition to being the first to explore Pluto, today New Horizons flew by the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft and became the first to directly explore an object that holds remnants from the birth of our solar system," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "This is what leadership in space exploration is all about."

    Signals confirming the spacecraft is healthy and had filled its digital recorders with science data on Ultima Thule reached the mission operations center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) today at 10:29 a.m. EST, almost exactly 10 hours after New Horizons' closest approach to the object.

    Introduction

    Billions of miles away, you can find some of the best-preserved fossils of the beginnings of our solar system. 2014 MU69, also known as Ultima Thule, is one of those relics that has been in a deep freeze all this time, with its orbit virtually unchanged over 4.5 billion years. Circling the Sun in a distant region of icy, rocky bodies called the Kuiper Belt, MU69 may represent the building blocks of Pluto and other planet-like worlds beyond Neptune.

    10 Things to Know About MU69

    10 Things to Know About 2014 MU69

    1

    Discovered in 2014

    NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope pinpointed MU69 on June 26, 2014.

    2

    Nickname

    About 40 people suggested the nickname Ultima Thule, and the
    New Horizons team chose it.

    3

    "Beyond"

    Ultima Thule’s name signifies “beyond the borders of the known world.”

    Artist's Concept (Binary)

    4

    Very Far

    MU69 is about 4.1 billion miles (6.6 billion kilometers) from Earth.

    5

    Long Way Round

    It takes about 296 Earth years for MU69 to make one trip around the Sun. 

    6

    Might be Two Objects

    1. MU69 may turn out to be two objects orbiting each other or even touching.

    7

    Potato-Shaped?

    If MU69 is a single object, it is seems to shaped like a typical baking potato.

    8

    New Name

    The New Horizons team will recommend a formal name after the 2019 flyby, and determining whether it is one object or two.

    9

    A True Relic

    This small world's orbit may have been virtually unchanged since the dawn of the solar system.

    10

    Happy New Year

    New Horizons will fly by MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019 (UTC).

    Artist's Concept (Single)

    11

    Very Far

    MU69 is about 4.1 billion miles (6.6 billion kilometers) from Earth.

    Did You Know?

    Did You Know?

    NASA’s New Horizons team picked the nickname Ultima Thule in homage to a far-northern island in medieval literature and cartography.

    New Horizons will be the first mission to visit an object that was discovered after the spacecraft launched.

    MU69 is the most distant object explored to date.

    Additional Resources

    Additional Resources

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