Beam Your Support To New Horizons Ahead of Historic Flyby

first_img Interplanetary space probes need encouragement, too.The public is invited to send messages of support to the spacecraft on its record-setting flyby.On Jan. 1, 2019, the ship will visit the most remote world ever explored by humankind: “(486958) 2014 MU69,” also known as Ultima Thule.Launched in 2006 as part of NASA’s New Frontiers program, New Horizons completed its objective—perform a flyby of Pluto—in 2015, and has been cruising through the Kuiper Belt, more than 3.7 billion miles from Earth, ever since.Visit the Beyond Pluto website to select a greeting for the mission team to beam (along with your name) to New Horizons, as it speeds past Ultima Thule next month.“Traveling at light speed, the signals carrying these messages will reach the spacecraft about six hours after being beamed from the [Johns Hopkins] Applied Physics Lab’s largest dish antenna, on the very same day that New Horizons flies by Ultima Thule,” according to principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Colorado. “How cool is that?”Entries will be accepted through Dec. 21, 2018.“Like the flyby itself, this is a one-shot chance to become part of deep-space exploration history,” the Applied Physics Lab said in a recent announcement.After the New Year’s Day flyby, scientists will choose a formal name to submit to the International Astronomical Union, based in part on whether MU69 is a single body, binary pair, or system of multiple objects.(Early observations hint at either a binary orbiting pair, or a contact [stuck together] set of nearly like-sized bodies, some 11 and 12 miles in diameter.)The people’s moniker—Ultima Thule—will be used in the meantime.NASA, meanwhile, announced on Monday that its Voyager 2 probe has exited the heliosphere—the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun—and entered interstellar space.More on Geek.com:First Global Maps of Pluto, Charon Available to AllNASA’s OSIRIS-REx Discovers Water on Asteroid Bennu‘Christmas Comet’ Will Be Brightest Comet of the Year Stay on target NASA Makes Ultima Thule ‘Pop’ in Artsy 3D ImagesNew Horizons Snaps Sharp Images of Ultima Thule’s Surface last_img

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