A NASA explorer is believed to have reached the solar system’s outermost Area early Tuesday morning, flying near Some space rock 20 Mph and Countless miles from Earth on a mission to gather clues about the creation of the solar system.
The body is further from Earth than any other that has had such a close encounter with a NASA probe, scientists think.
The New Horizons probe was supposed to reach the”third zone” at the uncharted center of the Kuiper Belt at 12:33am Eastern. Scientists will not have confirmation of its successful arrival until the research communicates its whereabouts through NASA’s Deep Space Network at 10:28am Eastern, about 10 hours later.
When it passes the outer coating of the buckle, containing icy bodies and leftover fragments out of the solar system’s production, the stunt will get its first close-up glimpse of Ultima Thule, a cool mass shaped like a peanut, using seven on-board devices.
Researchers had not discovered Ultima Thule as soon as the probe was launched, based on NASA, making the mission unique in that regard. In 2014, astronomers found Thule using the Hubble Space Telescope and picked it for New Horizon’s extended mission in 2015.
“Anything’s potential out there in this very unknown region,” John Spencer, deputy project scientist for New Horizons, told reporters on Monday in the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.
Launched in January 2006, New Horizons embarked on a 4 billion mile journey toward the solar system’s frigid edge to research the dwarf planet Pluto and its five moons.
During a 2015 fly-by, the research found Pluto to be marginally larger than previously believed. In March, it demonstrated that methane-rich dunes were on the icy dwarf planet’s surface.
After hiking 1 billion miles beyond Pluto into the Kuiper Belt, New Horizons will seek clues about the formation of the solar system and its planets.
As the research flies 2,200 miles (3,500 km) above Thule’s surface, scientists hope it will discover the chemical composition of its atmosphere and terrain in what NASA says are the closest observation of a body so distant.
“We’re straining the capabilities of the spacecraft, and from tomorrow we will know how we did,” New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern said during the news conference at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. “There are no second chances for New Horizons.”
While the mission marks the farthest close-encounter of an item within our solar system, NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2, a pair of deep space probes launched in 1977, have attained greater distances on a mission to questionnaire extrasolar bodies. Both probes are still operational.