SALT LAKE CITY — If you’ve decided to stay in on New Year’s Eve — and Julie Beck of The Atlantic highly recommends that you do — there’s an opportunity for you to watch a NASA spacecraft zoom by a unique space rock.
What’s happening: NASA will be sending its New Horizons probe past a space rock, called Ultima Thule, that’s never been seen before, NBC News reports. The probe will launch ahead of the new year.
The rock will be the “most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft,” according to NBC News.
Flashback: The New Horizons probe previously flew by Pluto in 2015.
- “We’re excited to explore a kind of object that has never been seen before,” Alan Stern, principal investigator for the New Horizons mission, told NBC News. “Thinking about the scale and magnitude of the exploration we’re conducting, and I would say people are close to climbing the walls with anticipation.”
Where to watch: The probe’s team will gather at the Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, where they will watch the spacecraft fly across space.
- NASA announced on Twitter that the events will be aired on NASA TV despite concerns the government shutdown would impact the event.
- “It’s ironic: NASA is doing the farthest exploration in its history and they got their hands tied behind their back by being caught in the government shutdown,” Stern told The Verge. “We have malfunction procedures for almost everything, but we didn’t think of a malfunction procedure for the government shutting down during the flyby.”
- You can watch the stream below:
Time: The flyby will occur around 10:33 a.m. MST on Jan. 1. However, it’ll be unclear if the mission is a success until 7:45 to 8:45 a.m. on the same day, The Verge reports.Comment on this story
What will it look like?: According to The Verge, New Horizons “will be as far away from the object as New York is from Los Angeles. From that distance, Ultima Thule will appear as big as the full moon does in the sky here on Earth.
Possible twins: According to The Associated Press, the Ultima Thule object could be two objects orbiting close together.
Future: We won’t receive all the information on New Horizons until two years from now.
- “At the very least, the nuclear-powered New Horizons will continue to observe objects from afar, as it pushes deeper into the Kuiper Belt. There are countless objects out there, waiting to be explored.”