And Ultima and Thule, according to New Horizons’ principal investigator Alan Stern at today’s NASA press briefing, the informal names the team have given the two lobes of the red object out in the Kuiper Belt New Horizons spent New Year’s encountering. The contact binary connected by a neck of material indicates two objects that came together and stuck sometime in the distant past when these kinds of interactions were leading elsewhere in the solar system to accretions that would eventually form the planets and their moons.

01 January 2019 image of Ultima Thule by New Horizons spacecraft and sketch of object and rotation courtesy James Tuttle Keane

During a morning press briefing aired on NASA TV on New Year’s Day 2019, New Horizons mission team leaders revealed the latest best image of Ultima Thule. Still a blur, the Kuiper Belt body’s shape is more apparent in this latest image. Still unclear: are the two lobes connected or are they in fact two separate objects orbiting each other? The pole of the object was pointed toward the spacecraft, meaning Ultima Thule rotates from that perspective like a propellor. Artist and planetary scientist James Tuttle Keane has helped visualize this geometry in his illustration included next to the image.

It’s good to be skeptical, but it’s also nice to see rumors confirmed by real and exciting  announcements: the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced today the detection of an exoplanet orbiting the nearby star Proxima Centauri. At a minimum mass 1.3 times that of the Earth’s, Proxima b might be a rocky world. With an orbit of 11.2 […]

I started posting online news and commentary about science and technology on January 18, 2000, and I eventually named that effort Frontier Channel. After a few weeks of short posts, I didn’t get back to posting again until January 2002. Two years after that, I finally started posting in earnest, and Frontier Channel enjoyed a nice run with frequent articles through […]

Consider what those of us can see in the night sky with healthy eyes, without any tools, far from city lights. Away from the dazzle of Sun’s day the Moon at night is, of course, the brightest above all. The visible stars make an obvious and fixed, so it seems, pattern that fills the celestial hemisphere. […]

This is it! Pluto is the last of the classical nine planets to be visited by a spacecraft from Earth. The New Horizons spacecraft will take close-up images and capture other useful data as it speeds by Pluto and its moons on July 14, 2015. This will complete the imaging grand tour of our solar system […]

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 is this week, so there are all sorts of television technologies being shown off by consumer electronics companies. Here is a brief breakdown, as I understand it: Ultra HD (4K) The next jump up in television screen resolution is Ultra HD, offering 4 times the number of pixels in […]

While Sarah Lacy’s “Follow the photos: The real reason Facebook just paid almost 10% of its market cap for WhatsApp” analysis is well done and likely part of the rationale behind Facebook’s purchase of WhatsApp for a staggering $19 billion, I think SimonDSG and samueljesse in the comment section are closest to articulating what is […]

Last year I turned 40 years old. Within thirty years I will be 70. I’m participating in The Quantified Diet study because I want to be active, healthy, and involved over the next few decades. These thirty years cover various mind-boggling predictions about technology and humanity that I want to be around to witness, to […]

Susan Fonseca gave a talk last January at a TEDx event in San Jose, California about waiting for promising emerging technologies to arrive. Her father passed away for need of an organ despite promising advances in 3-D printing. Fonseca’s experience is a poignant illustration of what I refer to as “The Bittersweet Years”. Technological progress […]

Internet In the second quarter of 2013, Akamai found that 24% of those people with internet connectivity in the United States had speeds higher than 10 Mbps, allowing them to stream audio and high definition video with relative ease. Globally, the percentage stood at 14%. Numbers are hard to come by, but of those, only […]

While tens of thousands of people might sign up for a single massive open online course (MOOC), very few of them complete the course, and very few of those demonstrate competence  with and retain what they have learned. So Udacity – founded by MOOC proponent Sebastian Thrun – has pivoted, slightly, according to this article from […]