NASA Says Ultima Thule Actually Looks Like A Pancake And A Walnut

James Marshall
February 15, 2019

The photos were taken shortly after the spacecraft passed its closest point of approach with Ultima Thule on New Year's Day and provide an outline of the side not illuminated by the sun.

The data was collected by New Horizons on 1 January when it crossed Ultima Thule at a speed of nearly 50000 km/hr. Initially, it was considered to be round objects, but the new view has shown is more squashed. The space object primarily consists of two parts, Ultima which looks like a pancake of giant proportion and Thule is shaped like a walnut that has been dented.

"Seeing more data has significantly changed our view", Southwest Research Institute's Alan Stern, the lead scientist, said in a statement. Yep, Ultima Thule is more of a space pancake than a snowman. The data transmission rate of New Horizon is phenomenal and is supposed to take 20 months to complete the data download. We've never seen something like this orbiting the sun.

'It would be closer to reality to say Ultima Thule's shape is flatter, like a pancake.

He said: "Nothing quite like this has ever been captured in imagery".

The images were taken almost 10 minutes after New Horizons crossed its closest approach point on 1 January. But more importantly, the new images are creating scientific puzzles about how such an object could even be formed.

The central frame of the new sequence of images was taken at 12:42 a.m.

Ultima Thule is the most controversial object in the solar system because it shares its name with the mythical homeplace of the Aryan race. Mission managers hope to target an even more distant celestial object in this so-called Kuiper Belt, on the frozen fringes of the solar system, if the spacecraft remains healthy.

It was first discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014.

The name "Ultima Thule" was chosen through a nickname campaign hosted by the New Horizons team.

"Reaching Ultima Thule from 4 billion miles away is an incredible achievement".

A quick look at Wikipedia will tell you the phrase Ultima Thule was used by the Romans to refer to a northern land just outside the bounds of the known world. "We're looking forward to seeing the next chapter".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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