The picture on the left was created by adding 48 different exposures from the LORRI camera on NASA’s New Horizons probe. The picture on the right has been processed to subtract the light from background stars, leaving an icy object known as Ultima Thule shining dimly in the crosshairs. (NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI Photo)
The next few months are due to bring two amazing interplanetary encounters: a rendezvous with an asteroid and a flyby past a mysterious icy object beyond Pluto on the solar system’s edge. Over the past few days, we’ve gotten our first fleeting peeks at both targets, and the view will only get better from now on.
Today, the icy object known as Ultima Thule had its turn in the spotlight, roughly 4 billion miles from Earth. NASA’s New Horizons probe is scheduled to zoom past and take close-up pictures on the night of Dec. 31-Jan. 1, but right now it’s still more than 100 million miles away.
It’s been more than three years since New Horizons made its memorable flyby of dwarf planet Pluto, but the set of 48 images captured on Aug. 16 demonstrate that the probe’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager, or LORRI, is ...