New Horizons: It Flies On

McT

The Humble Scot!
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35,060
#1
New Horizons is awake!

NASA said on June 5, 2018, that its New Horizons spacecraft is back “awake” and being prepared for the farthest planetary encounter in history – a New Year’s Day 2019 flyby of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule.

Cruising through the Kuiper Belt more than 3.7 billion miles (6 billion km) from Earth, New Horizons had been in resource-saving hibernation mode since December 21, 2017. Radio signals confirming that New Horizons had executed on-board computer commands to exit hibernation reached mission operations at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, via NASA’s Deep Space Network at 2:12 a.m. EDT on June 5 (6:12 UTC).

New Horizons made a historic flight past Pluto and its moons on July 14, 2015. Since then, New Horizons has been speeding deeper into the Kuiper Belt, observing other Kuiper Belt objects and measuring the properties of the heliosphere while heading toward the flyby of Ultima Thule – about a billion miles (1.6 billion km) beyond Pluto – on January 1, 2019.

New Horizons is now approximately 162 million miles (262 million km) – less than twice the distance between Earth and the sun – from Ultima, speeding 760,200 miles (1,223,420 km) closer each day.

Rest at source: http://earthsky.org/space/new-horizons-wakes-up-for-flyby-ultima-thule
 

Zyraz

Expert Member
Joined
Jul 7, 2011
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2,602
#2
New Horizons is awake!

NASA said on June 5, 2018, that its New Horizons spacecraft is back “awake” and being prepared for the farthest planetary encounter in history – a New Year’s Day 2019 flyby of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule.

Cruising through the Kuiper Belt more than 3.7 billion miles (6 billion km) from Earth, New Horizons had been in resource-saving hibernation mode since December 21, 2017. Radio signals confirming that New Horizons had executed on-board computer commands to exit hibernation reached mission operations at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, via NASA’s Deep Space Network at 2:12 a.m. EDT on June 5 (6:12 UTC).

New Horizons made a historic flight past Pluto and its moons on July 14, 2015. Since then, New Horizons has been speeding deeper into the Kuiper Belt, observing other Kuiper Belt objects and measuring the properties of the heliosphere while heading toward the flyby of Ultima Thule – about a billion miles (1.6 billion km) beyond Pluto – on January 1, 2019.

New Horizons is now approximately 162 million miles (262 million km) – less than twice the distance between Earth and the sun – from Ultima, speeding 760,200 miles (1,223,420 km) closer each day.

Rest at source: http://earthsky.org/space/new-horizons-wakes-up-for-flyby-ultima-thule
The Timeline for New Horizons
MU69_2018Timeline.jpg
 

Gordon_R

Executive Member
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#3
Update, ahead of New Year's Day 2019 flypast: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46610812

The American space agency's New Horizons probe remains on course for its daring flyby of Ultima Thule.

When the mission sweeps past the 30km wide object on New Year's Day, it will be making the most distant ever visit to a Solar System body - at some 6.5 billion km from Earth.

Mission planners decided at the weekend to forego a possible trajectory change.

It means the probe will get to fly 3,500km from icy Ultima's surface to take a series of photos and other data.

There had been some concern that the object might be surrounded by large debris particles which could destroy the probe if it were to run into them. But nothing of the sort has been detected and so a wider, safer pass will not be needed.
It is now three years since New Horizons made its remarkable flyby of dwarf planet Pluto. That was a technical tour de force and acquiring observations at Ultima will be just as tricky.

Controllers will have to tell the spacecraft precisely where and when to point its instruments or risk sensing empty space as it hurtles by at 51,000km/h.
Because New Horizons has to swivel to point its instruments, it cannot keep its antenna locked on Earth while also gathering data.

Controllers must therefore wait until later on New Year's Day for the probe to "phone home" a status update and to start to downlink some choice pictures.

And it will be 2 January before we see the first of these images, and 3 January before we get the best.
"Our data rates are low - typical data rates max out around 1,000 bits a second and it's going to take 20 months to get it all back," explained New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern.
 

Gordon_R

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#6
New Horizons has phoned home, but the photo album of Ultima Thule will take a while to download: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46729898

This first radio message contained only engineering information on the status of the spacecraft, but it included confirmation that New Horizons executed its autonomous flyby observations as instructed and that the probe's onboard memory was full.

A later downlink on Tuesday will see some choice images returned to give scientists and the public a taster of what New Horizons saw through its cameras.
 

Gordon_R

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#7
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Sugarman

Making Sugar
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#9
Great read, thanks for sharing @McT
It is amazing that we are still in contact with Voyger I, even though all these years it still haven't even reached the edge of our solar system.
I do hope we can stay in contact with Horizons for many years as we have done with Voyger I.

We are still to prove and see the Oort Cloud. Still this is not the edge of our solar system
 

Gordon_R

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#10
Interesting post-intercept observations show that the larger part of Ultima Thule is actually a flattened disk, not a sphere:

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/nasa-new-horizons-ultima-thule-mu69-pancakes

New images of Ultima Thule released February 8 indicate that the faraway space rock is much thinner than thought. Rather than two round spheres stuck together like a snowman (SN: 2/2/19, p. 7), the object, officially called MU69, is shaped more like a couple of lumpy pancakes that melded together in a frying pan.
 

Clive2

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 23, 2017
Messages
111
#14
Interesting..
I wonder what will happen once the fuel has been depleted - will New Horizons keep on drifting into interstellar space, or will our Sun & Solar System's gravity eventually pull it into an elliptical orbit (artificial comet)?
 

Gordon_R

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#15
Interesting..
I wonder what will happen once the fuel has been depleted - will New Horizons keep on drifting into interstellar space, or will our Sun & Solar System's gravity eventually pull it into an elliptical orbit (artificial comet)?
New Horizons was launched with an extremely high velocity, more than sufficient to escape the solar system entirely. Fuel has nothing to do with its orbit, only for narrowing down the intercept with objects such as Ultima Thule.
 

MightyQuin

Honorary Master
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Oct 6, 2010
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11,691
#16
6 hours Time it will take radio signals to reach Earth
This I find hardest to fathom. What are they using?

I've got kuk wireless in my room at home and my WAP is only in the kitchen. That's 40m away...
 

Gordon_R

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#17
This I find hardest to fathom. What are they using?

I've got kuk wireless in my room at home and my WAP is only in the kitchen. That's 40m away...
Large directional dish antenna on spacecraft, very large receiving dish on earth, low bandwidth transmission, exclusive reserved frequencies, extensive data correction protocols. See:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Horizons#/media/File:New_Horizons_1.jpg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_Deep_Space_Network#/media/File:Goldstone_DSN_antenna.jpg
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_space_bands

Your WiFi has exactly the opposite: short non-directional antennas, high bandwidth, noisy shared frequencies.

Edit: The next best approximation are GPS signals. Those satellites are in orbit 20,000km above earth, the signal is a few hundred bits per second with extensive error correction, and the receiving antenna is non-directional and shorter than your little finger. If you had a 70m dish antenna, you could probably receive GPS signals from Pluto...

Edit: Just realised that the same question came up in the Voyager thread. See there for similar answers.
 
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