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Hartmann visualization of "compound binary" asteroids formed in low-velocity collisions 1978 painting (upper left), 1980 painting (upper right), 1996 painting (lower left) – compared to an image of Ultima Thule by the NASA New Horizons mission,lower right. Credit: NASA/APL/SWRI.
On Jan. 2, the New Horizons spacecraft made the most distant flyby ever attempted, successfully returning images of the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule. While the world is agog at the so-called "snowman" shape of this icy asteroid, the concept is nothing new to PSI scientist and artist, Bill Hartmann. The figure shows paintings that Hartmann made from 1978 to 1996, to illustrate the possible outcome of very low-velocity collisions of distant asteroids. These are compared with the first released color image of Ultima Thule. The story goes back 50 years.
University - Arizona - Astronomers - Lunar - Planetary
In 1969, University of Arizona astronomers at the Lunar and Planetary Lab ("LPL"), Larry Dunlap and Tom Gehrels, noticed that as the asteroid 624 Hektor, far beyond the main asteroid belt in the region of Jupiter showed extreme changes in brightness as it rotated. In the late 1970s, Hartmann (having recently founded PSI) and Dale Cruikshank (then at the University of Hawaii), observing at 14,000-foot Mauna Kea Observatory, proved that the brightness change was not caused by one side having brighter materials, but rather by a very unusual elongated shape.
Hartmann became intrigued with how such bodies might have formed in the primordial solar system by low-velocity collisions of asteroidal bodies, from which the planets were growing. These still-theoretical bodies were called...
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