Meet Ultima Thule - The Most Distant World That NASA Has Ever Explored

NASA has revealed a photo of Ultima Thule - the most distant object that humanity has ever explored.

At four billion miles away, don’t expect to be taking a road trip there anytime soon. But allow me to tell you a little bit about this peanut-shaped object.

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Launched 13 years ago, the New Horizons probe was set to go out on the furthest mission NASA has ever taken on - stopping by Jupiter in 2007 and Pluto in 2015. But now, after four billion miles of travel and a tense 10 hours of lost communication (as it went behind Ultima Thule), the probe has broken a new record for the space agency.

You’ll find this planet in the Kuiper Belt, a band of icy objects, dwarf planets and general debris left over from the formation of the solar system (the big bang). The resulting picture from this mission is a bit of a blur for now, but as the distance is a bit far to say the least, the full download of pictures will take 20 months to complete.

It even got Brian May excited, as he released his first solo song in over two decades to celebrate the flyby. It also includes a posthumous message of congratulations from the late Stephen Hawking.

“This project has energised me in a new way. For me it’s been an exciting challenge to bring two sides of my life together - Astronomy and Music. It was Alan Stern, the Project Instigator of this amazing NASA Mission, who threw down the glove last May. He asked if I could come up with a theme for Ultima Thule which could be played as the NH probe reached this new destination. I was inspired by the idea that this is the furthest that the Hand of Man has ever reached – it will be by far the most distant object we have ever seen at close quarters, through the images which the space craft will beam back to Earth,” Brian commented.

“To me it epitomises the human spirit’s unceasing desire to understand the Universe we inhabit. Everyone who has devoted so much energy to this mission since its launch in January 2006 will be feeling they are actually INSIDE that small but intrepid vehicle - only about the size of a grand piano - as it pulls off another spectacular close encounter. And through the vehicle’s ‘eyes’ we will begin to learn, for the very first time, what a Kuiper Belt Object is made of. And pick up precious clues about how our solar system was born.” 

So, all in all a rather momentous time for NASA in a sea of many momentous occasions. Space is awesome.