Saturday, 16 February, 2019

NASA Ultima Thule pictures: New Horizons snaps breathtaking view of 'snowman asteroid'

The latest conceptions of the shape of MU69 The latest conceptions of the shape of MU69More
Frank Williams | 11 February, 2019, 22:45

"The larger lobe, nicknamed 'Ultima, ' more closely resembles a giant pancake, and the smaller lobe, nicknamed 'Thule, ' is shaped like a dented walnut", the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (where the mission is headquartered) detailed online. The object's illuminated crescent is blurred in the individual frames because a relatively long exposure time was used during this rapid scan to boost the camera's signal level - but the science team combined and processed the images to remove the blurring and sharpen the thin crescent.

1, 2019, file image made available by NASA shows the Kuiper belt object Ultima Thule, about 1 billion miles beyond Pluto, encountered by the New Horizons spacecraft.

The "departure" movie comprising 14 shots taken by New Horizons during its flyby of Ultima Thule.

It's not that easy to get accurate photos of the complete form of Ultima Thule, considering factors like distance from the sun, the side facing the light, and New Horizon's 50,000 km/h speed.

At left is a composite of two images taken by New Horizons' high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which provides the best indication of Ultima Thule's size and shape so far. Stern added that the discovery of its true shape is "creating scientific puzzles about how such an object could even be formed". According to principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, "We've never seen something like this orbiting the Sun". This set, according to NASA, was captured almost 10 minutes after the ship crossed its closest approach.

Part of what makes Ultima Thule so interesting is that it's a veritable time capsule from the oldest era in our Solar System.

The images taken by New Horizons also revealed some important scientific information about the object some observers had dubbed the "snowman" because of its appearance being similar to two spheres fused together. The photos were taken almost 10 minutes after the probe passed its closest point to the rock.

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Omar has previously expressed regret over a 2012 tweet in which she claimed Israel was "hypnotizing" the world. She might as well call us hook-nosed".

"This really is an incredible image sequence, taken by a spacecraft exploring a small world 4 billion miles away from Earth, "Stern said".

As New Horizons drifted through space at a speed of approximately 50,000kph, it was able to snap a number of awesome photos of the object officially known as 2014 MU69. By noting which of these stars went dark as Ultima blocked them out, mission scientists were able to map out the object's (surprisingly flat) shape.

Scientists believe that out here in this remote frigid realm, objects like MU69 have been frozen in pristine condition since the onset of the solar system some 4 billion years ago. "Nothing quite like this has ever been captured in imagery".

New Horizons is already 32 million miles (52 million kilometers) beyond Ultima Thule.

New Horizons' first 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.

The latest pictures were taken when New Horizons was about 8,000km from the object.

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