Ultima Thule Is a Distant, Icy Little Object, Just Like Your Father

Ultima Thule Is a Distant, Icy Little Object, Just Like Your Father

At a news conference Wednesday, scientists working with NASA's New Horizons mission released several images that the spacecraft took as it flew by Tuesday.

There isn't a giant solar carrot nose or space coal buttons or anything like that, but it definitely looks a bit like a snowman.

Ultima Thule, as the small, icy object has been dubbed, was found to consist of two fused-together spheres, one of them three times bigger than the other, extending about 32 km across.

Just over a day after NASA's New Horizons spacecraft zipped by Ultima Thule, scientists have revealed their preliminary findings of the distant object. The broken record was also previously set by the same probe, after it passed Pluto in 2015. New Horizons got up close and personal with this frozen chunk of rock on January 1st, but New Horizons has only just beamed back high-resolution images. Ultima Thule is a temporary nickname until a formal name is selected, likely this year.

NASA launched New Horizons in 2006 when Pluto was still considered a planet.

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"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. Despite its long journey, the spacecraft is still chugging along and could potentially break through the belt to join NASA's Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft outside our solar system-if the mission is renewed, Space reports.

Kuiper Belt Objects, of which Pluto is the largest, are especially interesting because they are thought to retain some of the Solar System's original building material, left undisturbed after billions of years.

Before the new picture, the only image scientists had showed a peanut-shaped blur. To be fair though, that's not a bad ETA, considering it's 6.5 million kilometres away.

"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.

The main priorities for the research is mapping Ultima Thule's surface, as well as looking for any potential moons and rings. This explains why, in earlier images taken before Ultima was resolved, its brightness didn't appear to vary as it rotated.

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