Back in August the NASA spacecraft New Horizons spotted its next target for the first time, that target is called Ultima Thule. New Horizons is set to pass within 2,200 miles of the icy target at 12:33 am EST on January 1 or New Year’s Day. That is a very close pass and puts New Horizons much closer to Ultima Thule than it came to the dwarf planet, Pluto when it zipped by at a distance of 7,800 miles.
Science fans who want to keep an eye on what New Horizons is doing as it gears up for that Ultima Thule flyby can grab a free app that is on Android and iOS platforms called Pluto Safari. The app gives users access to interactive views of the solar system as the spacecraft nears its target.
A countdown timer is ticking away to indicate when the spacecraft will make its closest approach to Ultima Thule. Pluto Safari will also allow users to see virtual flybys of some objects out in the Kuiper Belt. There are several other cool features of the app.
Those curious about the New Horizons spacecraft itself can interact with a 3D model of the spacecraft. A 3D model of Pluto’s system is also available to play with. The app also teaches users how to pinpoint the location of Ultima Thule in the night sky.
The official designation for Ultima Thule is 2014 MU69, and it is a billion miles away from Pluto. This makes the approach of Ultima Thule the farthest solar system encounter ever attempted by a human spacecraft. Scientists think Ultima Thule will give them a glimpse at the early solar system.