The NASA spacecraft is approaching the most distant and probably the oldest cosmic body ever photographed by humanity, a small, remote world called Ultima Thule, about four billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) away.
The American space agency will call in the New Year with live broadcast on the Internet to mark the historic flight of a mysterious object in the gloomy and icy area of space called the Kuiper Belt at 12.30 January 1 January (Tuesday 0533 GMT).
The guitar anthem recorded by the legendary guitarist Queen Brian May – who also has an advanced degree in astrophysics – will be released just after midnight to accompany the video simulation of the trip, as NASA commentators describe a close transition to www.nasa.gov/ nasal.
It is impossible to record real-time flight, because sending a signal from Earth to a spacecraft takes longer than six hours, called the New Horizon, and another six hours for a response.
But if all goes well, the first photos should be on hand until the end of the New Year.
And judging by the latest tweet from Alan Stern, the lead scientist on the New Horizons mission, the excitement of the band members is palpable.
"IT WORKS! Flyby is on us! @ NewHorizons2015 is healthy and on time! The ultimate exploration of worlds in history!" he wrote on Saturday.
– How does it look like? –
Researchers are not sure what Ultima Thule looks like (pronounced for lee) – whether it is round or oblong, and even if it is a single object or cluster.
It was discovered in 2014 using the Hubble telescope and has a size of 12-20 miles (20-30 kilometers).
Researchers decided to investigate this from New Horizons after the spacecraft launched in 2006, completed its main mission to fly Pluto in 2015, returning the most detailed pictures ever made on a dwarf planet.
"With the closest approach, we will try to capture Ultima three times in relation to the resolution we had for Pluto," said Stern.
"If we can achieve this, it will be spectacular."
Traveling space at 32,000 miles (51,500 kilometers) per hour, the spacecraft aims to approach 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) of Ultima Thule.
The flight will be fast at 9 miles (14 kilometers) per second.
Seven instruments on board will record high resolution images and collect data about its size and composition.
According to NASA, Ultima Thule comes from the mythical, far north of the island in medieval literature and cartography.
"Ultima Thule means" beyond Thule "- beyond the borders of the known world – symbolizing the exploration of the distant Kuiper and Kuiper belts that the New Horizons are doing, something that has never been done before" – said the American agency.
According to the researcher of the design by Hal Weaver from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, humanity did not even know the Kuiper Belt – a huge ring of relics from the formation of the Solar System – existing until the 1990s.
"This is the limit of planetary science," said Weaver.
"We finally arrived at the outskirts of the Solar System, those things that were there from the beginning and have hardly changed – we think we'll find out."
Despite the partial closure of the US government, caused by a dispute over the financing of the border between Mexico and President Donald Trump and opposition democrats, NASA's administrator Jim Bridenstine promised that the American space agency would fly.
Usually, NASA TV and the NASA website darken when closing the government.
NASA will also provide updates for another spacecraft named OSIRIS-REx, which will enter orbit around Benn's asteroid on New Year's Eve, Bridenstine said.