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Ultima Thule: NASA images reveal the "highly unusual" form of the most distant object ever explored



The final view captured by a NASA spacecraft as it flew across the most distant world ever explored revealed that it had a different shape than the one presented to the world on New Year's Day.

Instead of the "snowman" initially proposed when New Horizons retransmitted images from the depths of space, the object appears to have a flattened shape.

The new images show that there is still much to learn about the object called Ultima Thule, which is more than 4 billion miles from Earth.


It is located in the Kuiper Belt, a region of the solar system beyond the eight main planets, composed of frozen bodies that float in space.

The new "highly unusual" appearance of Ultima Thule was captured about 10 minutes after the spacecraft passed through its closest point, traveling at more than 31,000 miles per hour.

"This is really an amazing sequence of images, taken by a spacecraft that explores a small world four billion miles away from Earth," said the mission's principal investigator, Dr. Alan Stern, a planetary scientist. of the Southwest Research Institute.

"Nothing like this has been captured in images."

The images of the exit revealed a form that had previously been hidden since it was not illuminated by the sun.


By joining the images taken as the spacecraft went beyond the object, it was revealed that the larger "Ultima" section was not spherical after all, but flattened like a pancake.

The images have raised questions among the scientific team about how an object of this type could have been formed.

"We've never seen anything like this orbiting the sun," said Dr. Stern.

The team was able to assemble the new images according to which the stars were erased when the dark part of Ultima Thule passed in front of them.

"While the very nature of a fast flyby somehow limits how well we can determine the true form of Ultima Thule, the new results clearly show that Ultima and Thule are much flatter than originally believed, and much more flat than expected, "said Dr. Hal Weaver, a New Horizons project scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

"This will undoubtedly motivate new theories about planetesimal formation in the early solar system."


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