Meet Ultima AND Thule: NASA reveals first clear images of distant Kuiper Belt ...

Humanity has finally captured its first clear look at an object in the faraway Kuiper Belt.

NASA revealed the first images and science data from this week's historic flyby in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Far from the blurry 'bowling pin' we saw with New Horizons' first look when it beamed its signal home early morning on January 1, the new images reveal Ultima Thule is snowman-shaped red world with two distinct lobes - one stacked atop the other.

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Humanity has finally captured its first clear look at an object in the faraway Kuiper Belt. NASA revealed the first images and science data from this week's historic flyby in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

Humanity has finally captured its first clear look at an object in the faraway Kuiper Belt. NASA revealed the first images and science data from this week's historic flyby in a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE MISSON? 

Highly anticipated close-ups will be coming on on Wednesday or Thursday.

Overnight tonight, the science team will be analyzing the first high resolution images. 

Color images will come down this week, Alan Stern said. 

Over time, the resolution will improve.

The highest resolution images won't arrive until February. 

Photographing Ultima Thule – and traveling more than four billion miles through space to get there – ‘is a technical success beyond anything ever attempted before in spaceflight,’ Principal Investigator Alan Stern said in a press conference Wednesday.  

Jubilant NASA scientists celebrated on New Year's Day after confirmation their New Horizons probe reached the solar system's outermost region, flying close to a space rock 20 miles long and billions of miles from Earth on a mission to gather clues about the creation of the solar system.

The New Horizons probe was slated to reach the 'third zone' in the uncharted heart of the Kuiper Belt at 12:33 a.m. this morning ET - but NASA did not receive confirmation it was a success until 10:31am. 

Alice Bowman, the New Horizons Mission Operations Manager, known as 'MOM' received the updates from mission engineers, who one by one called in their status as green. 

'We have a healthy spacecraft, we have just completed the most distant flyby,' she said. 

Engineers 'locked onto' the signal, and data began to be downloaded from a tracking system in Madrid. 

'Everything looks great, we are looking forward to getting down the science data.

'We did it again.' 

Alice Bowman, the New Horizons Mission Operations Manager (right), known as 'MOM' received the updates from mission engineers, who one by one called in their status as green. she is seen here high-fiving Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission.

Alice Bowman, the New Horizons Mission Operations Manager (right), known as 'MOM' received the updates from mission engineers, who one by one called in their status as green. she is seen here high-fiving Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission.

'I'm really liking this 2019 thing so far,' said Mission Controller Alan Stern, who said he had got a good night's sleep after celebrating the flyby last night.

'New Horizons did spectacularly.'

Stern revealed the last picture the craft took before the flyby, and promised better images tomorrow. 

'Overnight tonight, the science team will be analyzing the first high resolution images, and we'll show you those tomorrow.

'Its 35x50km, and its an irregular shape. 

'It could be bi-lobate, with asymetric lobes, or it could be these are two things in orbit - and tomorrow we will known which is the case.'

'Everything we are seeing now happened about six hours ago,' said Mark Holdridge, the Encounter Mission Manager. 

'There's a lot of anxious people staring at screens in Mission control'. 

Stern revealed the last picture the craft took before the flyby, and promised better images tomorrow

Stern revealed the last picture the craft took before the flyby, and promised better images tomorrow

Detecting Ultima Thule's Size and Shape on Approach: At left is a composite of two images taken by New Horizons' high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which provides the best indication of Ultima Thule's size and shape so far. Preliminary measurements of this Kuiper Belt object suggest it is approximately 20 miles long by 10 miles wide (32 kilometers by 16 kilometers). An artist's impression at right illustrates one possible appearance of Ultima Thule, based on the actual image at left. The direction of Ultima's spin axis is indicated by the arrows.

Detecting Ultima Thule's Size and Shape on Approach: At left is a composite of two images taken by New Horizons' high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which provides the best indication of Ultima Thule's size and shape so far. Preliminary measurements of this Kuiper Belt object suggest it is approximately 20 miles long by 10 miles wide (32 kilometers by 16 kilometers). An artist's impression at right illustrates one possible appearance of Ultima Thule, based on the actual image at left. The direction of Ultima's spin axis is indicated by the arrows.

Now it is entering the peripheral layer of the belt, containing icy bodies and leftover fragments from the solar system's creation, the probe will get its first close-up glance of Ultima Thule, a cool mass shaped like a giant peanut, using seven on-board instruments.

The first image of Ultima Thule's shape was taken during the spacecraft's approach but clearer pictures are not expected for some time as it can take several hours for radio signals to reach Earth from that far away.

Jubilant NASA scientists were celebrating this morning celebrating after confirmation their New Horizons has reached the solar system's outermost region, flying close to a space rock 20 miles long and billions of miles from Earth on a mission to gather clues about the creation of the solar system.

Jubilant NASA scientists were celebrating this morning celebrating after confirmation their New Horizons has reached the solar system's outermost region, flying close to a space rock 20 miles long and billions of miles from Earth on a mission to gather clues about the creation of the solar system. Left, Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission

Alice Bowman (right), the New Horizons Mission Operations Manager, known as 'MOM' received the updates from mission engineers, who one by one called in their status is green. 'We have a healthy spacecraft, we have just completed the most distant flyby,' she said.

Alice Bowman (right), the New Horizons Mission Operations Manager, known as 'MOM' received the updates from mission engineers, who one by one called in their status is green. 'We have a healthy spacecraft, we have just completed the most distant flyby,' she said.

Flight controllers had said everything looked good for New Horizons' flyby of the tiny, icy object nicknamed Ultima Thule at 12:33 a.m. on Tuesday. 

The mysterious, ancient target is 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) from Earth and is in the Kuiper Belt.

Scientists wanted New Horizons observing Ultima Thule during the encounter, not phoning home. 

Nasa tweeted after the flyby that confirmation of the signal from the spacecraft will be made public at 9.45am

The green segment of the line shows where New Horizons has traveled since launch while the red indicates the spacecraft's future path

Nasa tweeted after the flyby that confirmation of the signal from the spacecraft will be made public at 9.45am. Right, The green segment of the line shows where New Horizons has traveled since launch while the red indicates the spacecraft's future path

So they had to wait until late morning before learning whether the spacecraft survived.

With New Horizons on autopilot, Mission Control was empty at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. 

Instead, hundreds of team members and their guests gathered nearby on campus for back-to-back countdowns.

The crowd ushered in 2019 at midnight, then cheered, blew party horns and jubilantly waved small U.S. flags again 33 minutes later, the appointed time for New Horizons' closest approach to Ultima Thule. 

A few black-and-white pictures of Ultima Thule might be available following Tuesday's official confirmation, but the highly anticipated close-ups won't be ready until Wednesday or Thursday, in color, it is hoped.

'We set a record. Never before has a spacecraft explored anything so far away,' said the project's lead scientist who led the countdown to the close encounter, Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute. 'Think of it. We're a billion miles farther than Pluto.'

New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern (C) of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO, celebrating with school children at the exact moment that the New Horizons spacecraft made the closest approach of Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule on Tuesday, January 1

New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern (C) of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, CO, celebrating with school children at the exact

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