I recently posted a shot of the planet Venus taken during one of my early morning walks around Bristol’s outer suburbs – and then got immoderately excited about the approach of NASA’s New Horizons space probe to the most remote object so far explored by Man, Ultima Thule – that post, with other links, are here .

And here is another of the TG-5’s images from my early morning walks: a clear (and cold!) sky at dawn, with (what I think is) the planet Venus and a beautiful crescent Moon.

Well, as I expect you may know by now, the New Horizons flypast of the 23 miles wide Ultima Thule (which was only discovered in 2014) went to plan – and now there is the long wait to see the images it captured. There is more info here .

I’m posting about this event again because it has really brought home to me just how vast space is – there are some startling statistics, a few of which I’d like to mention.  As regular readers of this blog will know, I’m an enthusiast for the Natural World in general – and these Ultima Thule events are still in the natural world, they just happen to be in the vast bulk of that world that is not on our planet.  And as some regular readers may also know, one of my backgrounds is in geology, and so I’m quite at home with vast timespans, for example the age of the Earth, which is around 4,500,000,000 years.  However, given that, I’ve found some of the facts and stats that I’ve recently discovered quite startling, and so am giving a very few of them for you, here.


During the flyby, the New Horizons probe was travelling at 20,000mph.  Flying at that speed, a collision with a solid particle the size of a grain of rice would have been sufficient to destroy the spacecraft’s internal systems and so terminate the mission.  But, well, space is just that I suppose; in the main it is empty.


Ultima Thule is around 4,000,000,000 miles distant from the Earth, and that may seem like a truly vast distance.  But, in astronomical terms, it is not.  Astronomical distances are measured in light-years, one of which is the distance that light travels in one year.  Although Ultima Thule seems so distant, if I’ve got my maths right, its only about 0.00068 light-years away from us – its radio transmissions, travelling at the speed of light, take 6 hours to reach us – which is why its notification of the successful flyby was so delayed.

But then compare that with the distance from the Earth of the nearest stars.  Our Sun, around 93,000,000 miles away, is of course our nearest star – and far, far closer to us than Ultima Thule.  But if we look outside our solar system, then the nearest stars are over 4 light-years distant – ie far, far further away than Ultima Thule –  which I think puts things very much into perspective.  If a probe were ever to reach those stars, and if technology stays as it is now, any message from the probe would take 4 years to get here – ET would phone home, but would have to wait a long time for a response!


I’m not really a technology buff, except possibly in terms of cameras.  But I am truly astounded at the technology that has enabled such a diminutive world to be accurately encountered at such a vast distance.  And the more so, when the signal from the spacecraft that it had successfully carried out the flyby was expected by 3.28pm our time – and then was expected by “about 3.30 pm” – and it happened on schedule!  In summary, many human achievements in the modern world do not impress me much, but this has quite possibly been one of the most astounding events that I’ve witnessed in my 68 years.

The first image in the Outer Suburbs series, with context, is here: 1 .  Subsequent images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 .  Each will open in a separate window.


About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for all sorts of images, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. bluebrightly says:

    I heard about that grain of rice fact – coupled with the logistics of the flight path, it’s just mind boggling. And there will never be too many pictures of Venus with the crescent moon – that is a pairing that should get more “press.” I wonder why there aren’t more myths or stories or sayings about that pair.


  2. paula graham says:

    Yes, it is baffling…and how about that photo of that ‘snowman’ from the time our planet was formed…remarkable, truly so.


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      That snowman is Ultima Thule, taken during the recent flyby – its in my Images I’ve Liked Recently feature, to the right here, until further of my Likes displace it. 🙂


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