Quick Guide To The Ultima Thule Flyby During NASA Shutdown

UPDATED Jan. 1 — Just over 24 hours before its closest approach to Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule, the New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the first images that begin to reveal Ultima’s shape. The raw image is at left but after sharpening we can see the asteroid’s elongated shape (right). NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

UPDATE Jan. 1 — New Horizons successfully flew by Ultima Thule last night on schedule and snapped a ton photos, a sample of which we’ll see live right here starting at 10:30 a.m. Central Time today (Jan. 1).

Assuming the U.S. government shutdown continues for the next couple days, rest assured you’ll still be able to get the latest news of the asteroid flyby even with NASA on hiatus. The New Horizons probe, now a billion miles beyond Pluto and 6.1 light hours from Earth, is on target to zing by the asteroid Ultima Thule late tonight Central Time around 11:30 p.m. A timeline follows — all times are Central (add 1 hour for Eastern, subtract 1 hour for Mountain and 2 hours for Pacific Times). You can watch, listen and participate at New Horizons website and at the Johns Hopkins University youtube channel:

Monday, Dec. 31

  • 2-3 p.m. — Got a question about the flyby? Ask the experts in this live Q&A. Go to twitter.com and type #askNewHorizons in the search field.
  • 7-10 p.m. — Panel discussion on exploration of small worlds (7-8 p.m.); mission and science updates; Ultima Thule flyby countdown event

Tuesday, Jan. 1

  • 9:15-9:45 a.m — Live coverage of New Horizons signal-acquisition in the Mission Operations Center, confirming the spacecraft’s status and flyby success
  • 10:30-11:30 a.m. — Latest images, spacecraft status and panel discussion

Wednesday, Jan. 2

  • 1-2 p.m. — Press briefing and science results from the mission.

Thursday, Jan. 3

  • 1-2 p.m. — Press briefing and more science results.

Here we go!