The Pictures are Here! New Horizons Close Up View of 2014 MU69
05 January, 2019, 06:43 | Author: Chad Warren
The scientists now say with confidence that Ultima Thule long ago was two bodies that got stuck together, what they call a "contact binary".
Ultima Thule has a mottled appearance the colour of light brick.
Although NASA's Voyagers crossed the Kuiper Belt on their way to true interstellar space, their 1970s-era instruments were not almost as sophisticated as those on New Horizons, Weaver noted, and the twin spacecraft did not pass near any objects known at the time.
The scientists have made a decision to call the larger lobe "Ultima", and the smaller lobe "Thule".
Scientists had suspected that Ultima Thule would not be perfectly round since the summer of 2017, when a global network of observers found the rock passing in front of a distant star.
Scientists have ascertained that the object takes about 15 hours to make a full rotation.
Engineers at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland cheered when the spacecraft's first signals came through the National Aeronautic and Space Agency's Deep Space Network at 10:28 a.m. EST (1528 GMT).
"New Horizons is like a time machine, taking us back to the birth of the solar system", Moore said.
The New Horizon spacecraft did a close flyby of the most distant object yet visited by any spacecraft on New Year's Day.
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Images taken during the spacecraft's approach - which brought New Horizons to within just 3,500 kilometres of Ultima - revealed that the Kuiper Belt object may have a shape similar to a bowling pin, spinning end over end, with dimensions of approximately 32 by 16 kilometers.
Among the images the scientists are hoping to receive are "higher resolution views" and pictures taken when the sun is at a better angle for viewing Ultima Thule.
Both spheres are similar in color, while the barely perceptible neck connecting the two lobes is noticeably less red, probably because of particles falling down the steep slopes into that area.
Images were taken by onboard instruments as the spacecraft zoomed past the world some 2,200 miles from its surface on New Year's Day, just past midnight. The larger sphere, which is an estimated 12 miles across, has been named "Ultima". Tholins are also behind the reddish color in a crater on the surface of Pluto's biggest moon, Charon, but scientists say the process behind its deposition on Ultima is likely to be different.
This is consistent with other irradiated objects that are in the Kuiper Belt, Carly Howett, mission co-investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, said yesterday. It is going to revolutionise our knowledge of planetary science'.
NASA researchers promised fresh announcements would drop Thursday, including on the composition and atmosphere of Ultima Thule, as new images with even more precise resolution have come through.
"The term, Ultima Thule, which is very old, many centuries old, possibly a thousand years old, is a wonderful meme for exploration, and that's why we chose it", Stern said.
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