Listen to New Horizons, Brian May's first solo single in 20 years

03 January, 2019, 07:30 | Author: Emmett Howard
  • Icy Ultima Thule, far beyond Pluto, looks like a snowman

Flyby data have already solved one of Ultima's mysteries, showing that the Kuiper Belt object is spinning like a propeller with the axis pointing approximately toward New Horizons.

The object is composed of two distinct lobes in contact with each other, with a 3-1 ratio in terms of their respective size.

Carly Howett, another researcher of the mission, noted that "we can definitely say that Ultima Thule is red", perhaps due to irradiation of ice. Frozen in time, the object may allow NASA to collect data that it hopes can give us further insight into the history and formation of our solar system.

At that time the outer fringes of the solar system consisted of "innumerable small particles or pebbles", Moore explained, that slowly coalesced into larger ones.

The first detailed images beamed back from the USA agency's New Horizons mission allowed scientists to confidently determine the body was formed when two spheres, or "lobes", slowly gravitated towards each other until they stuck together - a major scientific discovery. It is also a bilobate or compact binary object, meaning that it is composed of two separate objects that are now joined. The lack of evidence for damage at the sight of the collision suggests that the joining was probably gentle, like tapping someone's bumper as you fit into a tight parking space, Moore said.

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"In the coming months, New Horizons will transmit dozens of data sets to Earth, and we'll write new chapters in the story of Ultima Thule - and the solar system", said Helene Winters, New Horizons project manager. Closer to the sun, these building blocks would go on to form Earth, Mars, and all the other planets. In 2015, the spacecraft passed Pluto, providing the first images of a world once considered our ninth planet.

The US probe's images acquired as it approached Ultima hinted at the possibility of a double body, but the first detailed picture confirms it.

Scientists have ascertained that the object takes about 15 hours to make a full rotation.

The colour variation shows just how dark the object is with the brightest areas reflecting just 13 per cent of the light falling on them. That could be explained if the neck contains fine-grained particles that settle there from both lobes. "This is exploration at its finest", said Dr. Adam Hamilton, President and CEO of Southwest Research Institute.

NASA has released the first image from the historic Ultima Thule flyby taken with New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera. New Horizons is so far away it can only send data at about 2,000 bits per second, so it took time to get the new, higher-quality images. Mission scientists are working on additional funding. "I would say that just because some bad guys once liked that term, we're not going to let them hijack it". "If there is a connection, it is very tenuous", he said of any Nazi ties to the name, emphasizing the "positive message" of the name. It was chosen from about 34,000 names submitted by an online nomination process.

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