Emily Lakdawalla • Jan 01, 2019
Happy New Year! The New Horizons flyby was successful!
Data recorders full after 2014 MU69 flyby
New Horizons has "phoned home" as expected, 4 hours after its closest approach to 2014 MU69. Its brief transmission contained no science data, but gave the scientists welcome news: the spacecraft data recorders were exactly as full as expected, and the spacecraft systems all perfectly healthy. We still won't know until science data transmission begins this afternoon if the pointing of the spacecraft was on target, but all signs are good. New Horizons has successfully pulled off the most distant flyby ever.
They released one more image today, the last one returned before the encounter. It's still just a blob, but we now can say that the object is bilobate and about 35 by 15 kilometers. It could still be two distinct objects orbiting very close to each other, but is more likely a single object with two lobes -- like comets Halley, Borrelly, Hartley 2, and Churyumov-Gerasimenko -- a common shape in the solar system. Space science artist James Tuttle Keane provided the mission with a sketch of its likely appearance.
And now we wait for the data downlink. Stay tuned for more pictures, likely to be released tomorrow!
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