January 1st, 2019 (03:19)
Scientists wait for transmission from New Horizons, due to fly by mysterious Ultima Thule, a billion miles beyond Pluto. Hubble's images are faint and pixelated. Principal Investigator Alan Stern discusses the value of the object to the study of planetary formation; Hazard Team Lead Mark Showalter explains risks of flying the craft into unknown territory. (Credits)
January 19th, 2006 (03:01)
New Horizons is launched, destined for Pluto and beyond; Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman and Project Scientist Hal Weaver discuss emotional attachment to the space probe. After nine years, it closes in on the outer planet, transmitting clear images.
July 4th, 2015 (03:04)
Ten days before the Pluto flyby, mission control loses contact with New Horizons. The spacecraft's computer was overloaded, requiring repair before the pass; Bowman describes solving the problem with six hours to spare. On July 14th, 2015, the first close up images of the icy planet are transmitted.
July 14th, 2015 (06:50)
New Horizons mission scientists discuss the first and last images transmitted of Pluto; see a computer simulation of surface. Planetary Astronomer Mike Brown describes seasonal changes and geological diversity. Astrobiologist Caleb Scharf speculates possibilities of an interior liquid ocean and potential inhabiting lifeforms.
February, 1930 (03:41)
After Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, astronomers debated it's status immediately; Planetary Astrophysicist Konstantin Batygin discusses challenges of sizing and confirmation with limited technology. It is icy, small, and remote, with an eccentric orbit. Astronomers searched for another planet beyond for decades after
August, 1992 (02:24)
After six years searching from Maunakea Observatories, Planetary Scientists David Jewitt and Jane Luu find multiple objects outside Pluto in a region now known as the Kuiper Belt. Astronomer Derrick Pitts explains how the discovery changed perceptions and understanding of the solar system.
August, 2006 (03:09)
The International Astronomical Union votes to demote Pluto from its planetary status, grouping it into the Kuiper belt; the area's objects vary in size, shape, and orbit, including dwarf planets with possible atmospheres and moons. Scientists believe Ultima Thule is a fossilized structure representing the early solar system.
April, 2011 (04:52)
Planetary Scientist Marc Buie searches for New Horizon's next target; he explains optical interference from dense star fields of the Milky Way; Olkin discusses fuel and mechanical restrictions limiting the craft's range. In 2014, Hubble telescope is enlisted, and discovers Ultima Thule.
June 3rd, 2017 (03:26)
Occultation can be used to find the shape and size of an object in space. The Gaya Space Observatory creates three dimensional galactic star maps. New Horizon mission scientists use them to find observation sights in Argentina and South Africa; they set up telescopes, but calculations are off and the attempt unsuccessful.
July, 2017 (05:20)
On the 10th, another chance to observe Ultima Thule's occultation is available from the South Pacific Ocean; Sofia Airborne Observatory is enlisted, but unsuccessful. On the 17th, data collected by telescopes in Patagonia is used to calculate its size. Its shape is irregular, possibly two closely orbiting rocks or a contact binary.
Time Zero (03:25)
The solar system formed out of gas and dust; scientists have observed the same process elsewhere. Planetary Scientist Hilke Schlighting compares accretion to accumulation of dust bunnies; Stern and Astrophysicist Carey Lisse explain increased gravity through mass and its possible applications to Ultima Thule.
October 4th, 2018 (02:48)
New Horizons' orbit is tracked by Navigation Team Chief Fred Pelletier; 89 days from Ultima flyby and calculations are found incorrect, threatening mission success. He explains difficulties of tracing small objects against stars. He hopes to reach 22,000 miles from its surface, increasing details of feedback.
December 29th, 2018 (05:26)
Mission scientists discuss anticipation of New Horizon transmission of Ultima Thule data; much is still unknown as they prepare for the January 1st flyby. Bowman announces a healthy spacecraft and successful mission; images reveal binary planets. It will take 20 months for transmission of all information.
Credits: Pluto and Beyond (00:50)
Credits: Pluto and Beyond
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