On December 31st, 2018, NASA’s New Horizons made history by being the primary spacecraft to rendezvous with the Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) named Ultima Thule (2014 MU69). This got here roughly two and a half years after New Horizons turned the primary mission in the historical past to conduct a flyby of Pluto. This newest encounter led to some beautiful pictures of the KBO because the spacecraft made its a method.
However, after all, these weren’t the final photos New Horizons was going to seize of this object. Whereas making its flyby of Ultima Thule on New Year’s Day, the spacecraft took a lot of photos that exposed one thing very attention-grabbing about Ultima Thule’s form. Fairly than consisting of two spheres which are joined collectively, Ultima Thule is made up of two segments – one that appears like a pancake, the opposite a walnut.
These pictures signify the ultimate look that the New Horizons spacecraft had of Ultima Thule (formally named 2014 MU69) because it raced previous the thing on Jan. 1st, 2019. They have been taken almost ten minutes after New Horizons made its closest method to the article whereas touring at speeds of over 50,0000 km/h (31,000 mph).
The newly-launched photographs revealed vital scientific details about Ultima Thule, notably is its pure form. The original shut-up photos of Ultima Thule indicated that the item was composed of two spherical segments, which had folks calling it a “snowman.” Nevertheless, further evaluation of those pictures and the brand new departure photographs have brought about scientists to rethink that.
For one, the departure photos have been taken from a particular angle than the method images, which revealed complementary details about the KBOs form. The New Horizons crew additionally mixed 14 of the flyby photos into a brief film, which allowed them to verify that the two “lobes” of Ultima Thule usually are not spherical.