Published: Thu, January 03, 2019
Life&Culture | By Sue Mclaughlin

New Horizons survived its flyby of Ultima Thule

New Horizons survived its flyby of Ultima Thule

NASA has released the first image from the historic Ultima Thule flyby taken with New Horizons' Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera.

It comes after an unmanned NASA spacecraft sent a signal back to Earth after making a successful fly-by past the space object - the most distant world ever studied by mankind.

This flyby is the first exploration of a small Kuiper Belt object up close - and it's the most primitive world ever observed by a spacecraft.

When asked about the Nazis' use of the term, Showalter confirmed that he was aware of the usage and said that the New Horizons team and NASA, including its legal department, decided that the original meaning was more prominent and outweighed the less savory connotations. New Horizons has been releasing blurry photos of the object and has detected some weirdness about it, as we've reported-there didn't seem to be any variation in the amount of light it reflected.

Planetary scientists have never before seen a close-up of an object like Ultima Thule.

It's a moment that could define the future, but the name "Ultima Thule" is one from the past.

Ultima Thule has a mottled appearance the colour of tiresome brick.

Scientist Jeff Moore of Nasa's Ames Research Center said the two spheres formed when small, icy pieces coalesced in space billions of years ago. "Eventually, 2 larger bodies remained & slowly spiraled closer until they touched, forming the bi-lobed object we see today". Gravity is holding them together.

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A 15-hour rotation rate has also been established for Ultima Thule.

"This mission has always been about delayed gratification", Stern said on Tuesday.

The object itself is as dark as potting soil, said Cathy Olkin, deputy project scientist from the Southwest Research Institute.

"It's a snowman!" lead scientist Alan Stern informed the world from Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, home to Mission Control. It's not totally clear how these shapes form, but it's thought that they begin as two objects orbiting one another that merge.

Stereo analysis and subsequent imaging will be available soon.

"I'm surprised that-more or less-picking one Kuiper belt object out of a hat, that we were able to get such a victor as this", said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern during a press conference.

New Horizons flew three times closer to Ultima than it did to Pluto, coming within 3540 kilometres of it and providing a better look at the surface.

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