NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) scientists have revealed that the spacecraft known as New Horizons finally passed Ultima Thule, a very small, and icy celestial object.
New Horizons flew by the object at 12:33 a.m. Eastern Time but the news actually hit NASA ten hours later, as the object was actually around 6.5 billion kilometers away from Earth.
In fact, a Tweet from the federal agency stated that New Horizons was even far from the planet Pluto, being roughly one billion kilometers from it.
RIGHT NOW, ~1 billion miles past Pluto, @NASANewHorizons is performing the most distant spacecraft flyby ever as it zooms past #UltimaThule, an icy, ancient rock in the Kuiper Belt. Watch live coverage: https://t.co/oJKHgKpQjH pic.twitter.com/U30yazzigo— NASA (@NASA) January 1, 2019
Since the distance is so intense, it's going to be a while before the world gets to see all the observations of Ultima, more specifically, nearly two years. It takes six hours for the radio signals to actually reach Earth. This means that it needs to constantly send them, alongside other information regarding its status. However, there are a few of them already sent back to Earth but need to be zoomed into as they apparently have a pixel size of 10 km. What this means is that they'll need to be enhanced severely, resulting in quality loss. This will be the case until NASA gets higher quality images of Ultima Thule.
The spacecraft is thought to have come rather close to Ultima at only around 3,500 kilometers from it. While that may not seem like a close encounter, in the world of space it certainly is as everything is simply so vast.
CBC reported that at the in Laurel, Md at the Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, cheers were heard. This is not uncommon and is sometimes portrayed in films that cover NASA whenever the organization does something dangerous or intense.
All in all, this was a very good jump for humanity as a whole. It's not only going to provide images of the location but will also be breaking records since it's the furthest distance that's been explored so far.