NASA announcement: New Horizons set for historic flyby TOMORROW

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Alan Stern

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Alan Stern"It's pure science and pure exploration

"New Horizons will continue in that legacy", Stern wrote. To me, it epitomizes the human spirit's unceasing desire to understand the universe we inhabit.

May, who has researched dust clouds in the solar system, will be joining Stern and his planetary science team as they receive and analyze data from the New Horizons spacecraft.

Unlike Pluto, which is a billion miles closer in, Ultima Thule is thought to be relatively unchanged since the formation of the solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago.

It is noted that the Ultima Thule, the oldest celestial body photographed by mankind. "It's probably the most primitive object ever encountered by a spacecraft", mission project scientist Hal Weaver said in advance of the flyby. After getting stunning images of Pluto, the spacecraft continued hurtling through space at well over 30,000 miles per hour toward the outer reaches of the solar system's Kuiper belt. The Kuiper Belt is too far away, and way too cold to encourage the formation of any planets, leaving all its fragments frozen in time for billions of years.

The first signal back to Earth should come about 10 hours after the flyby, around 9:45 am (1445 GMT).

It is the second historic rendezvous for New Horizons, which zipped by Pluto in July 2015 on the first-ever flyby of that world. Two years later, researchers discovered that the Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) wasn't actually spherical, which further intrigued NASA. The mission was launched in 2006 and took a 9½-year journey through space before reaching Pluto.

"Young craters could provide a window to see the composition of the subsurface of Ultima Thule".

Another NASA spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, also set a new record on Monday by entering orbit around the asteroid Bennu, the smallest cosmic object - about 1,600 feet (500 meters) in diameter - ever circled by a spacecraft.

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The object was previously known as 2014 MU69.

Its official name is a bunch of numbers, 485968, so it goes by the Latin nickname Ultima Thule, which means "beyond the known world".

Brian has been "teasing" fragments of the track with specially adapted "New Horizons" video clips on his Instagram and Twitter feeds, as well on Brian's well-known "Bri's Soapbox" at "EVER", tweeted the project's lead scientist, Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute. "Our spacecraft is heading beyond the limits of the known worlds, to what will be this mission's next achievement".

FILE - This composite image made available by NASA shows the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed "Ultima Thule", indicated by the crosshairs at center, with stars surrounding it on August 16, 2018, made by the New Horizons spacecraft.

Ultima Thule exists in a profoundly frigid zone of the solar system where temperatures are near absolute zero - which is as cold as it gets (minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit).

"There's nothing more exciting in the world of exploration than going to a place about which we know nothing", May said. "New Horizons is on the hunt to understand these objects, and we invite everyone to ring in the next year with the excitement of exploring the unknown".

Scientists suspect Ultima Thule is a single object no more than 32 km long, though there's a chance it could prove to be two smaller bodies orbiting each other or connected by a slender neck.

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