Icy Object Past Pluto Looks Like Reddish Snowman

24 Août, 2019, 18:42 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Icy Object Past Pluto Looks Like Reddish Snowman

It is likely an icy fragment that coalesced more than 4.5 billion years ago and that has remained in a deep freeze of the solar system's Kuiper belt ever since, some 6.5 billion kilometres (4 billion miles) from the sun. "New Horizons has set a new bar for state-of-the-art spacecraft navigation".

He debuted it at Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., early New Year's Day. "Ultima Thule is the first object that will shed light on those earliest conditions".

Ultima Thule, as the small, icy object has been dubbed, was found to consist of two fused-together spheres, one of them three times bigger than the other, extending about 21 miles (33 kilometers) in length.

Signals confirming the probe is healthy and had filled its digital recorders with science data on Ultima Thule reached the mission operations center at 10:29 a.m. EST (3:29 p.m. GMT).

Alan Stern, principal investigator for New Horizons, said: 'It is only really the size of something like Washington DC and it is about as reflective as garden variety dirt.

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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. Its remarkable appearance, unlike anything we've seen before, illuminates the processes that built the planets four and a half billion years ago.

But today's look shows us what lurks in the Kuiper Belt.

Ultima Thule, a name that was nominated by 40 people, won the public poll. Then the spheres slowly spiraled closer to each other until they gently touched - as slowly as parking a vehicle here on Earth at just a mile or two per hour - and stuck together. "The data we have look fantastic and we're already learning about Ultima from up close". This is what's called a Contact Binary - two separate entities that combined to create one. The smaller is Thule at 9 miles across.

An earlier image of the spinning ball of dust and ice, captured by the spacecraft from about 500,000 kilometres out, was so fuzzy and grainy Dr Stern told those gathered at the press conference it was "OK to laugh".

The probe's target was the oblong space rock known as Ultima Thule, and even though the spacecraft passed the massive rock at around midnight EST, NASA had to wait another ten hours before they even knew if the probe performed as planned. According to Stern, the team has far less than one percent of all the data now onboard New Horizons in hand. This would indicate that Ultima Thule's either never had a run-in with another space body and/or was broken off of some other larger body of material so recently that no major added damage has yet occurred.

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