[Bill Higgins forwarded this press release with a note, “I myself will be at the center, and hope to help Chris Ready with the program — I’ve already agreed to an interview.”]
Christian Ready is an astronomer whose presentations on the work of the Hubble Space Telescope, and other topics in spaceflight and astronomy, have been very popular at science fiction conventions for years. Chris is currently making astronomy videos on YouTube; on New Year’s Eve and the following day, he’ll be live-steaming coverage of the New Horizons mission, as the spacecraft that visited Pluto performs a flyby of an even more remote, even colder body at the edge of the Solar System.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, having cruised beyond Pluto for two and a half years, is approaching a small object technically designated “2014 MU69,” but nicknamed Ultima Thule. It’s an icy body about 30 kilometers in size; very little is known about it. But on New Year’s Eve, New Horizons will be close enough to begin gathering detailed data: pictures, spectra, and particle measurements.
Chris Ready writes: “We’re going to be live at mission control at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. We’re going to talk with people from the New Horizons mission at APL and online during my first-ever remote livestream.
“I’m partnering with Tony Darnell from Deep Astronomy and TMRO to bring this to you live for 24 hours.”
To link to this YouTube livestream, visit https://youtu.be/0zzqOvJiSzE. (YouTube allows users to set a reminder to be notified when the stream begins or significant events occur.)
The livestream is expected to begin at noon, Eastern Standard Time, on Monday, 31 December. It’ll feature experts on planetary science, popularizers of science, and such SF writers as David Brin and Geoffrey Landis. The moment of closest approach will be 33 minutes after midnight on Tuesday, New Year’s. A signal — indicating success, one hopes — is expected to be received on Tuesday morning at 10:30 EST. Coverage will end at noon on Tuesday.
Because communication over 6.5 billion kilometers is limited to a slow rate, it will take days for the first detailed images of Ultima Thule to be downlinked to Earth. Nevertheless, a host of scientists and other guests will be gathered in Maryland to celebrate the moment of flyby, review our knowledge of the outer Solar System, and await the crucial signal indicating the spacecraft’s status.
Chris Ready explains more about the event in a 6-minute video clip here: