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On December 2 New Horizons successfully completed another engine burn to refine its course for its January 1, 2019 flyby of the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule.
The maneuver was designed to keep New Horizons on track toward its ideal arrival time and closest distance to Ultima, just 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) at 12:33 a.m. EST on Jan. 1. At the time of the burn New Horizons was 4.03 billon miles (6.48 billion kilometers) from Earth and just 40 million miles (64 million kilometers) from Ultima – less than half the distance between Earth and the Sun. From that far away, the radio signals carrying data from the spacecraft needed six hours, at light speed, to reach home.
The team is analyzing whether to conduct up to three other course-correction maneuvers to home in on Ultima Thule.
The distance to Ultima Thule is still too much to produce detailed images. New Horizons however is going very fast, so in the coming three weeks this will change drastically, and for the better.