Nasa says faraway world Ultima Thule shaped like ‘snowman’

Mindy Sparks
January 4, 2019

"The term "Ultima Thule" was many centuries old ... and is a wonderful name for exploration". "This really puts the nail in the coffin now", Stern said. "This is exactly what we need to move the modeling work on planetary formation forward".

Queen guitarist Brian May has launched New Horizons, his first solo single since 1998's Why Don't We Try Again.

"I didn't imagine that it could happen", May said. At the time-and even up to a few days ago-it was impossible to tell if Ultima Thule was one long object or two small objects orbiting each other.

'These are the only remaining basic building blocks in the back yard of the solar system that we can see that everything else that we live on, or receive through our telescopes, or visit with our spacecraft, were formed from. Data that New Horizons collected as it approached its target suggested that Ultima Thule was bowling-pin-shaped and spinning like a propellor. The first batch that scientists revealed Wednesday was only a taste, but it was a tantalizing one, they said. Now, they're stuck together.

The same kind of accretion process produced the other moons and planets of the solar system around 4.5 billion years ago, says Jeff Moore, a co-investigator on NASA's New Horizons mission.

This photo is a dramatic improvement on the images we've had in the days before the flyby, and it answers one of the biggest questions scientists have had about the asteroid: is it one object or two? Before Ultima Thule was intercepted by the New Horizons spacecraft, scientists knew nearly nothing about it, but they were eager for a glimpse of what's thought to be an nearly unchanged relic from our solar system's earliest days. On average, the object is about as bright as the darkest spot on Pluto's surface, Verbiscer says. The new images and data confirmed the icy space rock's classification as a contact binary. Many more photos are expected to be released soon. That's why it already holds such lessons about the formation of the planets. Stern said the thing that was most surprising about the experience was "picking a Kuiper Belt object out of a hat" and then finding out that the team had picked a victor. We now know a lot more about that cosmic body, and it looks like a snowman.

This artist's impression 2014 MU69, or Ultima Thule, may not be that far off: the Kuiper Belt object appears to be a duo locked in a permanent kiss. The massive area of swirling objects at the edge of the solar system also contains Pluto.

"I'm surprised that, more or less picking one Kuiper Belt object out of the hat, that we were able to get such a victor as this", he said. As NASA announced well in advance of the flyby, it's going to take months for the spacecraft to send its trickle of information back to Earth, and sciences will surely be eager to get their hands on it.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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