The Associated Press
January 28, 2019 13:08:11 IST
The space snow core visited by NASA on New Year's Day is completely decorated and has a brilliant "neck" between the two merging spheres.
These are the newest details that arise on Ultima Thule, the most distant object ever explored.
A close-up photo taken by NASA New Horizons spacecraft Just before the next one on January 1 and published on Thursday, shows a bunch of breasts at Ultima Thule. They are less than half mile (0.7 kilometers). There is also a much larger circular depression on the smallest lobe, considered the head of the snowman. Scientists do not know if they are impact craters or diaphanols.
Classified as a contact binary, the Ultima Thule of 20 millilions long (32 kilometers in length), reddish, has clear and dark patterns. The brightest place is where the two lobes are connected. Scientists say that the shading variation can help explain how the old object was formed, as the solar system emerged 4.500 million years ago.
Lead scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute promises even better images over the next month. It will take almost two years for New Horizons to transmit all the data of the flyby, 4 million kilometers away.
At such a great distance, it takes more than six hours for the radio signals to travel in a way. New Horizons already has more than 19 million miles (30.5 million kilometers) beyond Ultima Thule.
Launched in 2006, the spacecraft became the first visitor to the dwarf planet Pluto in 2015. Ultima Thule was its second goal. A third, even deeper, destination within the so-called Kuiper belt in the frozen fringes of our solar system could be possible by 2020.
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