Just wait for the New Year, the New Horizons will hand on the stories of Ultima Thule from 4 billion miles away, the Kuiper Belt, a place where even sun appears as a twinkling star. The icy doughnut-shaped region still remained a mystery. So, what might our probe find?
Completing the hibernation, the New Horizon woke up to prepare itself for a completely new mission. After the mission Pluto, the New Horizons has already begun its journey towards the Ultima Thule, a Kuiper Belt object discovered in 2014 when the astronomers were eyeing on the Kuiper Belt with Hubble telescope.
It was the easiest Kuiper belt object for us to get to,” says Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission. “It is the one we can approach using the least amount of fuel and so maximize our reserves – which could be crucial in dealing with any unforeseen maneuvers in the future.”
He also said, “We are going to find out what this object is made of, – How was it was constructed? Does it have an atmosphere? Does it have rings? Who knows what we might find.” Studying such worlds would certainly be much harder than studying the surface of Mars or Venus yet people, especially Stern looks quite excited about the mission.
He said, “Ultima Thule could have an atmosphere, rings or several moons, – We are certainly hoping for a lot because we uncovered so many surprises when we got to Pluto. However, we will have to wait until 1 January to discover the truth. We will gather about 50 gigabytes of information from New Horizons after its instruments have studied Ultima Thule,”
“That is roughly the same amount that we gathered from Pluto and its moons – and that took more than 16 months to be beamed back to Earth.” However, New Horizons is now 1bn miles further from Earth than it was when it passed Pluto three and a half years ago, and that means it will take even longer to beam back its data about Ultima Thule” Stern.
Ultima Thule has already covered 3 billion miles when it was on the mission, Pluto. And now, we’re quite close to the destination and many mysteries are going to unleash. “Once we get all the data back from Ultima Thule we can start thinking about the next goal,” says Stern.
“New Horizons has a nuclear battery that will provide the craft with another 20 years of electricity, so we could easily go on to another object. We will have the power to do that. It remains to be seen if there is popular backing for another encounter, however. In a way, it depends what we find at Ultima Thule.”