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NASA has revealed a new image taken by New Horizons spacecraft. This image [offers a departing view of the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) nicknamed Ultima Thule – the target of its New Year’s 2019 flyby and the most distant world ever explored].
Ultima Thule is a trans-Neptunian object located in the Kuiper belt. It is a contact binary 31 km long, composed of two joined bodies. It is classified as a classical Kuiper belt object. Ultima Thule is considered as the farthest and most primitive object in the Solar System visited by a spacecraft.
There are also upcoming images which will come soon; they are the final views New Horizons captured of the KBO (officially named 2014 MU69) as it raced away at over 31,000 miles per hour (50,000 kilometers per hour) on Jan. 1.
“This really is an incredible image sequence, taken by a spacecraft exploring a small world four billion miles away from Earth,” said mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of Southwest Research Institute. “Nothing quite like this has ever been captured in imagery.”
New image contains very useful information about the shape of Ultima Thule which is situated over 4 billion miles away from Earth.
“We had an impression of Ultima Thule based on the limited number of images returned in the days around the flyby, but seeing more data has significantly changed our view,” Stern said. “It would be closer to reality to say Ultima Thule’s shape is flatter, like a pancake. But more importantly, the new images are creating scientific puzzles about how such an object could even be formed. We’ve never seen something like this orbiting the Sun.”
“While the very nature of a fast flyby in some ways limits how well we can determine the true shape of Ultima Thule, the new results clearly show that Ultima and Thule are much flatter than originally believed, and much flatter than expected,” added Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. “This will undoubtedly motivate new theories of planetesimal formation in the early solar system.”
The images in this sequence will be available on the New Horizons LORRI website this week.
Source: Text; NASA
Image credit; NASA