New Horizons final Ultima Thule images reveal true shape

Postado Fevereiro 11, 2019

The incredible images confirmed some predictions and dispelled others, revealing MU69 to be a snowman-shaped world with a rusty red hue that spins end-over-end like a propeller.

"Ultima", the larger of the two lobes, is actually more like one of those excessively fluffy pancakes, while the smaller lobe (nicknamed "Thule") looks like a disappointingly deflated party balloon (or "dented walnut", according to scientists).

On the first day of the New Year, humanity became a little bit more familiar with the unknown.

New Horizons then set out an extended mission, which centered on a close flyby of Ultima Thule, which is officially known as 2014 MU69.

But, it spins end-over-end like a propeller.

Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory said, "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 flatters than originally believed, and much flatter than expected".

A sequence of images captured as New Horizons moved away from the object in the Kuiper Belt at a velocity of 50,000 km/hour, taken about 10 minutes after closest approach, show a much flatter appearance.

Stars can be seen "blinking out" in the background of an animation created from several images stitched together as New Horizons flew by.

'We had an impression of Ultimate 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 anything like this orbiting the Sun", NASA said in a statement.

Back in early January, when scientists pulled down their first batch of data from the New Horizons spacecraft, they celebrated an odd snowman-shaped object in the outer Solar System. This is the farthest movie of any object in our Solar System ever made by any spacecraft.

The primitive world was "born" this way, and did not evolve or deform through external processes to take on the odd shape, the team explains.

"The shape model we have derived from all of the existing Ultima Thule imagery is remarkably consistent with what we have learned from the new crescent images", said Simon Porter, a New Horizons co-investigator from the Southwest Research Institute.

'We are seeing a physical representation of the beginning of planetary formation, frozen in time, ' Moore says.

The newly released images also contain important scientific information about the shape of Ultima Thule, which is turning out to be one of the major discoveries from the flyby.