Published: Sat, January 05, 2019
Science | By Celia Watts

Heil Heavens? NASA Gives Far-Off Space Object Nazi-Friendly Name

Heil Heavens? NASA Gives Far-Off Space Object Nazi-Friendly Name

NASA's New Horizons mission has sent back the first detailed images of the most distant object ever explored in the solar system, dubbed Ultima Thule, which lies four billion miles away.

Just over a day after NASA's New Horizons spacecraft zipped by Ultima Thule, scientists have revealed their preliminary findings of the distant object.

To astronomers' surprise, images from the New Year's Day flyby reveal that Ultima Thule is a "contact binary", which means it consists of two connected spheres that were previously separated but now joined together. Various images which were signaled by the spaceship was studied in details by the scientists of NASA where there happened to find the asteroid is made up of two lobes or spheres which are stuck together and are gravitated towards each other.

Ultima Thule in colour.

Ultima's current rotation rate, estimated at about 15 hours for a complete turn, isn't fast enough to fling the two balls apart, Moore said.

This illustration provided by NASA shows the New Horizons spacecraft.

New Horizons will send back data pertaining to Ultima Thule's geology, composition, and potential atmospheric conditions, providing a nifty look at a 31-km-long proto-planetoid and hopefully answering a few questions about how the larger masses in our solar system came to be. Shortly after the encounter, New Horizons beamed back a handful of initial images showing a bowling pin-shaped object. While Earth anxiously sucks in a deep breath of anticipation, scientists have finally determined the color of Ultima Thule.

And the images confirmed what observations using the Hubble Space Telescope had suggested as New Horizons scientists scouted Ultima Thule - that, like parts of Pluto and its moon Charon, it has a rusty hue.

The first sharp picture of the "city-sized world" the New Horizons probe travelled 6.5 billion kilometres to explore has been unveiled, to the delight of NASA.

Lead scientist Alan Stern informed the world from Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory said that the bowling pin is disappeared.

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.

"I'm surprised that more or less picking one Kuiper belt object out of the hat, that we were able to get such a victor as this", Stern says. It is going to revolutionise our knowledge of planetary science'.

The images we have of the object now show no obvious impact craters, but there are hills and ridges.

As a preserved relic from that original time, Ultima Thule also promises to shed light on the so-called Kuiper Belt, or Twilight Zone, in which hundreds of thousands of objects reside well beyond Neptune.

Carly Howett, another researcher of the mission, noted that "we can definitely say that Ultima Thule is red", perhaps due to irradiation of ice.

Like this: