Four billion Kilometers from the sun floats Ultima Thule, an icy celestial body that NASA scientists announced Wednesday is shaped like a giant snowman.
The initial detailed pictures came back in the US agency’s New Horizons mission enabled scientists to determine the body has been formed when two spheres, or”lobes,” slowly gravitated towards each other till they stuck together – a major scientific breakthrough.
The New Horizons spacecraft on Tuesday flew past Ultima Thule, which was found via telescope in 2014 and is the farthest and potentially oldest cosmic body observed by means of a spacecraft.
Before that flyby, the only image scientists had was a fuzzy one revealing Ultima Thule’s oblong shape, resembling something like a bowling pin or a peanut butter.
“That bowling pin is gone – it’s a snowman if anything in any way,” Stern said during a NASA briefing.
“What this spacecraft and this group realized is unprecedented.”
Ultima Thule’s surface reflects light about as far as”garden variety grime,” he stated, as the sun’s rays are 1,600 times fainter there than on Earth.
The body is roughly 19 miles long and completes its own rotation in about 15 hours. NASA dubbed the larger lobe Ultima, and the other, which is roughly three times bigger, Thule.
“This really is the very first object which we can clearly inform was born this way” Stern explained, rather than evolving as a type of”bi-lobe.”
We are aware that this is the way these kinds of objects in many cases form.”
‘A time machine’
Some 4.5 billion years ago a cloud of suspended pebbles began to join forces, slowly forming two figures – Ultima and Thule.
Slowing turning, they finally touched at each other at what mission geology supervisor Jeff Moore called an”incredibly slow pace” – perhaps just one to several mph.
If such a meeting occurred between two cars in a parking lot, he said, no driver would bother writing this up. The lobes, based on Moore, are really just”resting on each other”
“New Horizons is similar to a time machine, taking us back into the arrival of the solar system,” Moore said. “We are seeing a physical representation of the beginning of formation, suspended in time.”
Carly Howett, yet another researcher of this assignment, noted that”we can definitely state that Ultima Thule is reddish,” perhaps due to irradiation of ice.
NASA researchers promised fresh announcements would drop Thursday, such as on the makeup and air of Ultima Thule, as fresh graphics with much more exact resolution have come through.