Ring in the New Year with New Horizons!
New Horizons took this photo of its next target, 2014 MU689 - aka Ultima Thule - on December 2, 2018, when the spacecraft was 24 million miles from this icy, tiny object - and over 4 billion miles from Earth! The image on the right shows Ultima Thule more clearly after the subtraction of the background stars from the image on the left.
Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Update:
Press Briefing on First Results from January 2, 2019, via Alan Stern.

New Horizons makes its next historic flyby on January 1, 2019, when the distant NASA spacecraft zooms past the mysterious Kuiper Belt Object known as 2014 MU69 (nicknamed Ultima Thule after a public naming contest). New Horizons has sped towards this small world since its Pluto flyby in July 2015. Mission planners anticipate their closest approach to Ultima Thule will occur on January 1, 2019, at 12:33 am Eastern Time. That means for some folks in the Americas, the probe's flyby will be perfectly timed with their own New Year's Eve celebrations!

 
discovery image of 2014 MU69
Discovery Image of 2014 MU69 by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/SwRI/JHU/APL/The New Horizons KBO Search Team

Ultima Thule is the first target of a space probe's flyby discovered after the mission's launch: an intense survey by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014 found both it and several other potential flyby targets. Since then, followup observations around the world helped narrow the parameters of a few of Thule's primary characteristics including its size, general shape, color, and orbit, which in turn have helped mission planners fine-tune the details of the impending flyby. Recent record-setting adjustments to its trajectory ensure that the probe will speed past the surface of Ultima at a distance of approximately 2,200 miles, even closer than its earlier flyby of Pluto. Studying this distant object will help unlock secrets about the formation of our solar system in addition to broadening our understanding of the Kuiper Belt. Ultima Thule's orbit keeps it far away from the warming radiation of oue Sun, which scientists believe has preserved it as a sort of ancient time capsule from the primordial era of our solar system. Altogether, this New Year's flyby is poised to ring in 2019 with some incredible scientific discoveries!

sharable image detailing the new horizons art campaign

You can find various ways to get involved with New Horizons before the flyby, including a fun art campaign for students and various media events. Keep up with the latest news from the New Horizons mission team on their official homepage and Twitter account. You can even send a short message to New Horizons: messages from well-wishers will be beamed to the probe from Earth on January 1. You can sign up here to be a part of space history - but make sure to enter by December 21. The countdown begins now!
 
Last Updated: December 16, 2018
 
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