back to article Close Encounters of the Kuiper Belt kind: New Horizons to come within just 3,500km of MU69

If we're not all too hungover when New Year's Day 2019 rolls around, NASA will hopefully have a fun set of photos to show us because on that day New Horizons probe has been told to go within just 3,500km of Kuiper Belt Object MU69. Having nominated MU69 as next on New Horizons' itinerary in 2015, it's already pointed the probe …

  1. alain williams Silver badge

    It is a long way away from the sun

    how much light is there there for taking pictures ?

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: It is a long way away from the sun

      It's ok, they've got until December to download the Flashlight app

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It is a long way away from the sun

        "It's ok, they've got until December to download the Flashlight app"

        No problem ,but the 4Gb of adverts and data stealing between the spacecraft and the dodgy software house may cripple if for several months.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: It is a long way away from the sun

          And don't forget the telemetry data about the usage of the app....

        2. Simon Harris

          Re: It is a long way away from the sun

          "4Gb of adverts and data stealing"

          I hope they're encrypting it too, or they'll be open to amanfrommars-in-the-middle attack.

    2. Tom Womack

      Re: It is a long way away from the sun

      It's about 45AU from the Sun, so sunlight is two thousand times fainter than on Earth - but that's still about a hundred times brighter than full-moonlight, and with a camera on a good tripod you can take pretty good photos in full moonlight.

      1. MacroRodent Silver badge

        Re: It is a long way away from the sun

        Besides, the cameras aboard the New Horizons have been designed for dim lighting. As someone who started taking photos when film ruled, I am often amazed by the sensitivity of even cheap consumer digital cameras. Back in the film days, you really had to use flash or a special bright "photoflood" lamp, if you wanted sharp pictures indoors. You could use extra sensitive films (especially towards the end of the film era), but the result with them was grainy and even with them, you could rarely use faster shutter speeds than 1/30s, which is barely short enough for a hand-held camera.

      2. Pen-y-gors

        Re: It is a long way away from the sun

        @Tom Womack

        and with a camera on a good tripod you can take pretty good photos

        But where do you balance a tripod on New Horizons without it falling off in the slipstream - that baby is really movin'

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: It is a long way away from the sun

          The good thing in vacuum is you have no external sources of vibrations. Inertia also helps to stabilize the platform. Sure, you have to take into account the speed of the probe relative to the photo target, for a given distance.

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: It is a long way away from the sun

          But where do you balance a tripod on New Horizons without it falling off in the slipstream - that baby is really movin'

          What slipstream?

    3. Gavin Jamie
      Alien

      Re: It is a long way away from the sun

      It is surprisingly bright. You can see for yourself if you can get away from streetlights and use https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/pluto/plutotime to work out when to pop outside.

  2. Pen-y-gors

    Another duckie?

    What are the chances of that, then? Must mean something. God is a duck?

    1. aks

      Re: Another duckie?

      Or ducks created the universe.

      Or was it a rabbit? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit%E2%80%93duck_illusion

    2. DNTP

      Re: Another duckie?

      It is (or might be) a rounded oval with a smaller round object offset attached at one end which I gather is not an uncommon shape for two asteroids that had a low energy collision and merging. All it takes is one person to say "duck" in an attempt to conceptualize an abstract, duck-unrelated shape, and then human pattern recognition being what it is everyone will be thinking "duck". Brain sure loves its shortcuts.

    3. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      Re: Another duckie?

      A WITCH! A WITCH!

  3. frank ly

    Future report

    The puzzling thing was that no matter what course corrections NASA made, New Horizons was unable to get close enough to MU69 for detailed pictures. (Ominous music follows.)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the smallest it could pick out on Pluto was 183 metres"

    Ah, that explains it. I was wondering why it could have missed all the infrastructure (shops, football pitches, strip clubs).

  5. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Lost in Space?

    New Horizons will look at the object from celestial north

    Is it just me who finds that rather confusing, given it's relative to the poles and axis of rotation, or at least the line extending into space from them? Surely to know that we must already have made a close observation already? In any case I wouldn't have expected such an asteroid to have a clearly defined and stable axis of rotation anyway?

    Or does a duck have a pre-defined "north", presumably sticking out from the top of its head?

    In any case, "Celestial North" would be a great name for a rock (asteroid?) band...

    1. The First Dave

      Re: Lost in Space?

      "celestial north" means North in relation to the entire solar system, though defined by 'North' on the Earth initially.

    2. David Nash

      Re: Lost in Space?

      The duck's "north" is defined relative to its rotation, whereas Celestial North is the North of the sky (and you thought there was no "up" in space :-) )

  6. phuzz Silver badge

    "If we're not all too hungover when New Year's Day 2019 rolls around"

    Or too busy searching for food and water in an irradiated hellscape, depending on how optimistic you are.

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