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NASA New Horizons' imagery of the Kuiper Belt Object has revealed its true shape.
Ultima Thule doesn't look much like a snowman after all.
Photos - NASA - New - Horizons - Spacecraft
The final photos that NASA's New Horizons spacecraft snapped of Ultima Thule during the probe's epic Jan. 1 flyby reveal the distant object to be far flatter than scientists had thought, mission team members announced today (Feb. 8).
"It would be closer to reality to say Ultima Thule's shape is flatter, like a pancake," Stern added. "But more importantly, the new images are creating scientific puzzles about how such an object could even be formed. We've never seen something like this orbiting the sun."
NASA - New - Horizons - Image - Ultima
NASA’s New Horizons took this image of Ultima Thule on Jan. 1, 2019, from a distance of 5,494 miles (8,862 kilometers). At left: An "average" of 10 photos taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI); the crescent is blurred because a relatively long exposure time was used during this rapid scan to boost the camera’s signal level. At right: A sharper processed version of image, which removes the motion blur.
The $720 million New Horizons mission launched in January 2006 to perform the first-ever flyby of Pluto. The probe aced this encounter in July 2015, revealing the dwarf planet to be a spectacularly diverse world of surprisingly varied and rugged landscapes.
Imagery - New - Horizons - Approach - Ultima
Initial imagery taken during New Horizons' approach suggested that Ultima Thule is shaped like a bowling pin. But that impression changed shortly before closest approach, which occurred just after midnight on New Year's Day and brought the probe within 2,200 miles (3,540 km) of the mysterious body. Photos snapped around that time indicated that Ultima Thule is composed of two lobes, both of which appeared to be roughly...
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