East Coast space fans have a reason to celebrate as January 1 begins, and not just because of the New Year. At 12:33 am EST, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft arrives at the distant Kuiper body Ultima Thule for our farthest encounter with a solar system body.
Converting to the appropriate time zones for the rest of the country places the encounter late on December 31, but regardless of where you are, space fans can follow New Horizons on social media and at mission websites hosted by NASA and Johns Hopkins University as the spacecraft approaches its target.
Ultima Thule measures approximately 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) across and has an elongated, double-lobe shape that may indicate that it's either a binary system or even a contact binary (two bodies touching each other). It was not in the mission plan when New Horizons was launched for Pluto in 2006, having been discovered well after in 2014, but it was found to be close enough along the spacecraft's trajectory that New Horizons could reach it with the fuel that it had left after the Pluto encounter. Given a new target and a second life, New Horizons is about to make history again, going where no spacecraft has gone before.