Nasa says faraway world Ultima Thule shaped like 'snowman'

06 January, 2019, 19:55 | Author: Kelly Sanders
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A team of scientists will reveal more information on Ultima Thule - an object that lies 6.5 billion kilometres from Earth - when they address a news conference today. In total, the object measures around 20 miles in length, while the two spheres are 12 and 9 miles across respectively.

Data analysis has also not yet found any evidence of an atmosphere.

Before that flyby, the only image scientists had was a blurry one showing Ultima Thule's oblong shape, resembling something like a bowling pin or a peanut.

The color of Ultima Thule matches the color of similar worlds in the Kuiper Belt, as determined by telescopic measurements. Finding the moons, which would orbit Ultima Thule up to 500 miles (800 km) from its surface, would also reveal details about the space rock's mass and density. The probe still has plenty of fuel to play with, and there's no shortage of interesting objects in the Kuiper Belt, which is packed with debris of varying sizes.

New Horizons-which launched in 2006-will continue to observe Ultima Thule over the next couple of years, with scientists hoping that the spacecraft will provide more fascinating insights into the distant object.

The newly visited space snowman - the most distant object ever explored - is now appearing in 3D.

The first detailed images beamed back from the United States 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.

"New Horizons holds a dear place in our hearts as an intrepid and persistent little explorer, as well as a great photographer". It will keep pressing farther out, observing other objects from afar, and measuring dust and particles. He joined in the New Year's Day flyby festivities at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory. The Southwest Research Institute, based in San Antonio, leads the science team, payload operations and encounter science planning.

Data transmission from New Horizons will pause for about a week while the spacecraft passes behind the sun as seen from here on Earth, he said. The transmission will resume on January 10, starting with a 20-month download of New Horizons' remaining "scientific treasures".



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