Nasa shows first photo of distant world from New Horizons probe

Here's Our First Image Of Ultima Thule, The 'Most Distant Object Ever Visited By A Spacecraft' - Digg

Alan Stern, principal investigator for New Horizons, said: "It is only really the size of something like Washington DC and it is about as reflective as garden variety dirt".

The two-balled shape reminded others of BB-8, the plucky droid from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens".

New Horizons will continue to explore the Kuiper Belt, the unexplored region of the solar system beyond Neptune that is filled with small objects orbiting the Sun (like Ultima Thule and Pluto). At this resolution, each pixel of the image is 140 meters on a side.

The object looked sort of looked like a fuzzy bowling pin.

The "snowman", named Ultima Thule, orbits an area known as the Kuiper Belt. "And it's illuminated by a sun that's 1,900 times fainter that it is outside on a sunny day on Earth, So we're basically chasing it down in the dark at 32,000 miles per hour". The image on the right combines the tow to give us a clearer view in color. Mission scientists are working on additional funding.

So far, no moons or rings have been detected, and there were no obvious impact craters in the latest photos, though there were a few apparent "divots" and suggestions of hills and ridges, scientists said.

Though Bartels' story came out in March 2018, it resurfaced on Twitter this week in conjunction with New Horizons' arrival at the object.

And the objects adjoin at a narrow neck, but evidence suggests they are held together by gravity and not some other force, Stern said.

The larger sphere is "Ultima" and measures 19 kilometres across. The smaller one, which is 9 miles across, is "Thule". Ultima Thule rotates about once every 15 hours, the scientists determined. "We are seeing a physical representation of the beginning of planetary formation, frozen in time".




"New Horizons is like a time machine, taking us back to the birth of the solar system", he added.

Now they will work to download and look through all of the data sent back over that long distance, a process that could take years. Some of the data acquired by New Horizons might shed light on that.

Nevertheless, Ultima Thule isn't the object's official name - a formal name will need to be proposed to the International Astronomical Union.

The accretion process that formed 2014 MU69.

Additional information will be released at 14:00 EST (1900 UTC) Thursday, 3 January 2019 by the New Horizons team.

In a press conference, Stern elaborated on what scientists have discovered from preliminary images. He then pulled up the most recent image taken by New Horizons on Jan.1.

What's so special about the Kuiper belt?

"There's plenty of time to find other targets if we're in a position to having a still-healthy spacecraft, an accepted proposal, and our search is successful", Stern said.

Four billion miles from the sun floats Ultima Thule, an icy celestial body that NASA scientists announced Wednesday is aptly shaped like a giant snowman.

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