NASA Releases First Close-Up Pictures of Icy Object Past Pluto

04 January, 2019, 21:42 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman after the team received confirmation from the New Horizons spacecraft that it has completed the flyby of Ultima Thule

LAUREL, MARYLAND-Humanity is getting its first good look at a primordial planetary building block, in images sent back by this afternoon by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft after its flyby of MU69, a small icy body at the far fringes of the solar system.

Nasa confirmed Tuesday that the spacecraft - New Horizons - completed its flight past Ultima Thule at 12.33am on January 1, Eastern Time. Together they form Ultima Thule, a frozen world that is almost 4.5 billion miles from Earth, more distant than Pluto.

In the coming days, weeks and months, NASA scientists will continue to receive new data from New Horizons, revealing Ultima Thule in greater detail.

It's also a glimpse 4.5 billion years back in time, to the origins of the solar system, because the distant planetesimal has nearly certainly orbited unchanged in the frozen Kuiper Belt since it formed. But when better, closer pictures arrived, a new consensus emerged Wednesday.

"Congratulations to NASA's New Horizons team, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the Southwest Research Institute for making history yet again", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

May went on to explain how the New Horizons mission directly inspired his new solo track.

"Ultima Thule" was one of 37 contenders that the New Horizons team selected from 34,000 public suggestions and put to the vote. Then the spheres slowly spiraled closer to each other and stuck together.

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The latest images of Ultima Thule were taken from about 17,000 miles out, showing a formation that end to end measures about 19 miles in length, and has a rotation period of 15 hours, plus or minus an hour.

Mission organizers have been criticized for calling the object by a name that Nazis used for the mythical birthplace of the Aryan race. The centre image taken by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) has a higher spatial resolution than MVIC by approximately a factor of five.

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.

Ultima Thule's surface reflects light about as much as "garden variety dirt", he said, as the sun's rays are 1,600 times fainter there than on Earth. But the signal to confirm the spacecraft's location did not reach Earth until 10 hours later.

That means that Ultima Thule is likely an object that dates back to the formation of the solar system, as scientists suspects prior to the flyby. The remaining two lobes formed Ultima Thule, and with its material we have a window into the early solar system.

We will never forget this moment. "It's something that's completely different". "Just because some bad guys once liked the term, we're not going to let them hijack it".

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