Friday, 18 January, 2019

NASA's New Horizons Passes Ultima Thule

Ultima Thule The Newly Released Image Of Ultima Thule, The Farthest Object Ever Explored, Is Mind-Blowing - Digg
Theresa Hayes | 06 January, 2019, 19:59

The photo above was captured by the spacecraft's Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) at 5:01 Universal Time on January 1st, 2019, 30 minutes before the spacecraft's closest distance of 18,000 miles (28,000km) from Ultima Thule.

The newly visited space snowman - the most distant object ever explored - is now appearing in 3D.

What has got scientists all a-quiver is that the appearance of Ultima Thule seems to confirm theories of planetary accretion, which has specks of dust colliding to form objects with sufficient gravity to attract each other. These objects, known as Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs), are composed largely of ices - methane, ammonia, and water - similar in composition to comets.

Ultima Thule is found in a region of the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt - a group of small icy bodies which are remnants from the formation of the solar system. The righthand image is a combination of the color and black&white (center) observations. In an animation created by NASA using three of the images we can see the oblong shape of Ultima Thule, which NASA describes as looking like a bowling pin.

"Everybody knows it as Ultima Thule", he noted. Essentially, its surface has been "burnt" over the eons by the high-energy cosmic rays and X-rays that flood space.

The two lobes of Ultima Thule - the first Kuiper Belt contact binary visited - are almost identical in color. The blurred image which happened to be the very first one to be sent by the spacecraft gave a perception to the scientists that the asteroid was a kind of pea-shaped.

Scientists speculate that Ultima Thule was originally two separate celestial bodies that eventually merged some 4.5 billion years ago at the birth of our solar system. However, the probe has come even closer to Ultima Thule since that flyby, and NASA expects a picture with five times the resolution to reach their servers in February when the next downlink is scheduled.

New Horizons completed the farthest flyby in history when it came within about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometres) of Ultima Thule at 12.33am EST on January 1, zooming past the object at more than 32,000 miles (51,000 kilometres) per hour.

"Gradually it dawned on me that this mission is about human curiosity", May said.