NASA says faraway world Ultima Thule shaped like ´snowman´

NASA says faraway world Ultima Thule shaped like ´snowman´

NASA says faraway world Ultima Thule shaped like ´snowman´

We now know the basics of this unusual object, the most distant solar system body ever explored by a spacecraft. In this image, "Thule" is the upper, smaller lobe and "Ultima" is the larger, bottom lobe. Occasional astrophysicist and guitarist for Queen Brian May has gifted us with a song in tribute to NASA's successful mission to flyby Ultima Thule. "We are seeing a physical representation of the beginning of planetary formation, frozen in time", he said.

Today's imagery, derived from data sent back to Earth on the previous day, literally casts a whole new light on the 19-mile-long object - which is known by its official designation, 2014 MU69, or by the nickname given by the New Horizons team, Ultima Thule ("Ul-ti-ma Too-lay"). Over time, two larger objects remained and slowly joined together in what scientists called "contact binary". "If you had a collision with another vehicle at those speeds, you may not even bother to fill out the insurance forms", he said. "What we're looking at is basically the first planetesimals", Moore said.

Ultima Thule is one of few building blocks left from that process that humans have explored - and the only pristine example from that time.

"Unfortunately the approach images we're showing you that came down first just aren't conducive to determining whether there are craters on the surface or not", said Mr. Moore said that the shape of that cometary nucleus could also be explained by activity as cometary ice sublimates.

The colour of the object is now confirmed as red. While Earth anxiously sucks in a deep breath of anticipation, scientists have finally determined the color of Ultima Thule. The object has a mottled look, with the bright patches concentrated in mysterious circles while the darker areas seem more linear. The centre image taken by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) has a higher spatial resolution than MVIC by approximately a factor of five. "This is exploration at its finest", said Dr. Adam Hamilton, President and CEO of Southwest Research Institute.

Scientists say images from NASA's spacecraft New Horizons show a snowman-like object in the cold, icy part of our solar system. The slow data-rates from the Kuiper belt mean it will be fully 20 months before all the information is pulled off the spacecraft.

Also on its way back to Earth are spectral data collected by the spacecraft. But unlike those objects, which have encountered more space debris and endured the sun's heat, Ultima Thule is thought to be mostly unchanged since it formed. In just the last day some members of the public expressed reservations about the name because of ties to Nazi ideology.

It dates back to the fourth century, when it was widely used to describe freezing northern lands, both real and fabled. "That's why we chose it".

"Everything that we're going to tell you [today] is just the tip of the iceberg", Dr Stern said. It was chosen from about 34,000 names submitted by an online nomination process.

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