Ultima Thule in Pictures: Flyby Views of 2014 MU69 by New Horizons

Hello Ultima Thule!

Adrian Mann/All About Space

On Jan. 1, 2019, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will make history with the first close flyby of a Kuiper Belt object: Ultima Thule. See photos of Ultima Thule and the historic encounter here! In this image, artist Adrian Mann imagines New Horizons' Ultima Thule flyby for Space.com's sister publication All About Space.

First Color Image of Ultima Thule!

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

This first color photo of the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule reveals the object's red color as seen by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft from a distance of 85,000 miles (137,000 kilometers) during a Jan. 1, 2019 flyby. From left to right: an enhanced color image, a higher-resolution black and white image, and an overlay that combines both into a more detailed view.

First Images of Ultima Thule

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

The surface features of Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule (2014 MU69) are coming into focus in these images taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its historic flyby on Jan. 1, 2019. These images, released Jan. 2, were taken a day earlier from a distance of 18,000 miles (28,000 kilometers) with a scale of 730 feet (140 meters) per pixels.

New Horizons Ultima Thule Flyby Celebration

Bill Ingalls/NASA

New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern (center) celebrates with school children at the moment the spacecraft was planned to reach its closest approach to Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule on Jan. 1, 2019 at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. It is the furthest flyby in history.

Ultima Thule Bowling Pin

NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI; sketch courtesy of James Tuttle Keane

The Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule takes on a bowling pin shape (left) in this view from the New Horizons spacecraft taken on Dec. 31, 2018 just before its flyby closest approach on Jan. 1, 2019. At right is an artist's sketch of the object, which is about suggest it is approximately 20 miles long by 10 miles wide (32 kilometers by 16 kilometers).

Potential Ultima Thule Shape


Data about the distant body Ultima Thule from just before the New Horizons probe's flyby suggest it is a bi-lobed object, or possibly two objects orbiting each other. There is not enough data yet to fully understand its movement.

Best Pre-Flyby Ulitma Thule View


The best view New Horizons grabbed of Ultima Thule before it flew by the distant object.

New Horizons OK Message

NASA/Bill Ingalls

New Horizons mission operations manager Alice Bowman celebrates with principal investigator Alan Stern on Jan. 1, 2019, as "OK" signals come back from the spacecraft's instruments after its flyby of Ultima Thule.

New Horizons Ultima Thule Shape Photo

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

This photo of the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule (2014 MU69) reveals a new clue into the object's shape just ahead of New Horizons' closest approach on Jan. 1, 2019. This photo was taken on Dec. 30, 2018 by New Horizons from distance of about 1.2 million miles (1.9 million kilometers).

Brian May Talks New Horizons Flyby of Ultima Thule

Bill Ingalls/NASA

Astrophysicist Brian May, the lead guitarist of Queen, speaks with reporters ahead of NASA's New Horizons flyby of the Kuiper Belt Object Ultima Thule on Jan. 1, 2019 at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. May composed a special song just for the flyby.

Ultima Thule in Sight!

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

This is the first detection of Ultima Thule using the highest-resolution mode of the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager aboard the New Horizons spacecraft. Three separate images, each with an exposure time of 0.5 seconds, were combined to produce the image. All three images were taken on Dec. 24, when Ultima was 4 billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from the sun and 6.3 million miles (10 million km) from the New Horizons spacecraft.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award (opens in new tab) for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast (opens in new tab) with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network (opens in new tab). To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik (opens in new tab).