A Long, Long Way

NASA Probe Passes Most Distant Object Yet

A NASA probe marked the New Year with a flyby of the most distant cosmic body yet explored by mankind. The US space agency’s New Horizons craft passed within 2,200 miles of the tiny frozen object, named Ultima Thule, which is four billion miles from earth and a billion miles beyond Pluto, early on Tuesday. The icy world, believed to be one of the oldest objects in the galaxy, may yield valuable clues as to how the universe took shape. Real-time video of the actual flyby was impossible, since it takes more than six hours for a signal sent from Earth to reach the spaceship—and another six hours for the response to arrive. A solo track recorded by Queen guitarist Brian May, who holds an advanced degree in astrophysics, was released just after midnight to accompany a video simulation as NASA commentators described the close pass.