Over 4 billion miles away, the New Horizons spacecraft rang in the New Year as it flew by a space rock known as Ultima Thule. I love that name! It sounds more like a super villain from an Avengers movie coming to attack Earth than a harmless object floating aimlessly through the Kuiper Belt.
On a more reasonable note, Utima Thule is the furthest object we have visited by spacecraft, and that’s a big deal. Technology has improved so much over the decades that we’re finally exploring areas of space we’ve only imagined.
The first images to arrive, however, look like a “pixelated blob,” according to Hal Weaver, Project Scientist. Better images and data will arrive later tonight, so we’ll have a better idea of what it actually looks like in the next couple days. And by February NASA expects to have the best colored images available.