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New Horizons Arrokoth Flyby, December 2018 - January 2019

NASA's New Horizons misson launched in 2006, and flew past Jupiter and Pluto before finally reaching the Kuiper belt object Arrokoth (aka 2014 MU69, aka (486958) Arrokoth, and briefly known as Ultima Thule*) on January 1, 2019. I have been a member of the science team since around the time of launch.

Here are some photos from the flyby of Arrokoth, taken during the 10 days that the science team re-assembled at APL for the flyby. Arrokoth is tiny compared with Pluto (diameter of 20 km vs. 2400 km), so the flyby was comparably compressed in time. The target was only resolvable (i.e., more than a single pixel) about 24 hours before the flyby, compared with several months of resolved observations when we were on approach to Pluto in 2014.

APL is usually off-limits to photos. I am really grateful to the support of the mission and APL in arranging for me and others on the team to take photos during the encounter. Thanks in particular to Carl Engelbrecht, Lisa Turner, Mike Buckley, and Alan Stern.

* The official IAU name Arrokoth was introduced 11 months after flyby, in November 2019. We called it Ultima Thule at the time of flyby, which was always intended to be a temporary, informal name. In the captions, I've changed most of the names to Arrokoth, though I've kept some references to MU69 and Ultima Thule in the quotes.

All these pictures (and thousands more!) as a timelapse:

My other New Horizons galleries:

All photos by Henry Throop. All photos credit NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI / Henry Throop.