Ring in the New Year with history’s farthest flyby

Alan Stern
New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, stands alongside a scale model of the New Horizons spacecraft after a briefing on the Ultima Thule flyby. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

LAUREL, Md. — The sleeping bags are rolled out and the videos are cued up for a New Year’s celebration of cosmic proportions here at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, but the star of the show is still a mystery.

That’ll change once NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flies past an icy object more than 4 billion miles from Earth, known as 2014 MU69 or Ultima Thule.

The piano-sized probe is due to make its closest approach at 12:33 a.m. ET on New Year’s Day (9:33 p.m. PT Dec. 31), nearly 13 years after New Horizons’ launch and three and a half years after it flew past Pluto.

Mission managers say it’s all systems go for history’s farthest-out close encounter with a celestial body.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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