The composition won't be known until Ultima Thule starts sending back data in a process expected to last almost two years. If Jupiter were the size of a basketball, Earth would be the size of a grape. Highly anticipated close-ups will be coming on on Wednesday and Thursday. 'We'll find out soon enough.'. Please be respectful when making a comment and adhere to our Community Guidelines. Rotating detonation engines to propel hypersonic flight, A reclusive lizard became a prize for wildlife smugglers, SpaceX has made us all believe in reusable rockets, Finnish swimmers who chill out in subzero waters, Pan Am Flight 103 and Mueller's 30-year search for justice, Looking for the latest gadgets? At first, Ultima Thule appeared as a bowling-pin-shaped blur. Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Scientists say it's possible it's two or many objects. On New Years' Eve, following a 13-year trip to deep space, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft made a close pass of Ultima Thule, a small, icy world drifting 4 billion miles from the sun in the unexplored "third zone" of our solar system. 'There's a lot of anxious people staring at screens in Mission control'. Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates. This arrangement is what's known as a contact binary, the experts say – and, it’s now the first a spacecraft has ever explored. Are you sure you want to mark this comment as inappropriate? After all, they are huge conglomerations of galaxies, hot gas, and dark matter and represent the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, The arrangement of the spiral arms in the galaxy Messier 63, seen here in an image from the Nasa Hubble Space Telescope, recall the pattern at the center of a sunflower, Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with colour data from the Ralph instrument to create this enhanced colour global view of Pluto, The HiRISE camera aboard Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter acquired this closeup image of a "fresh" (on a geological scale, though quite old on a human scale) impact crater in the Sirenum Fossae region of Mars. 'We have a healthy spacecraft, we have just completed the most distant flyby,' she said. The scientists say the two lobes of Ultima Thule came together in a 'gentle' accretion process, with two objects bound together by each other's gravity. Variations in color could be due to peaks and valleys in the landscape, or differences in geology.

New Horizons made an epic flyby of a Kuiper Belt object to ring in the New Year — but scientists need brand-new observations to truly understand that data. Experts believe the segments were formed in one of two ways. You can also choose to be emailed when someone replies to your comment. 'So after we get all the data, that's what we're going to do. The image was sent back by the New Horizons spacecraft, which has already explored Pluto in greater detail than ever before. 19 in 1965. The image was sent back by the New Horizons spacecraft, which has already explored Pluto in greater detail than ever before. (Ultima is roughly 12 miles up, while Thule makes up the other nine.).

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently turned its telescopic camera toward a field of stars, snapped an image – and made history. So stay tuned. It's still too early to know what's responsible for the variations in brightness across the surface, or if the oddly-shaped world has any moons.

'Everything we are seeing now happened about six hours ago,' said Mark Holdridge, the Encounter Mission Manager. "What you’re seeing is the first 'contact binary' ever explored by spacecraft," said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern. The two objects have probably been joined up for 99 per cent of the length of the Solar System said, Nasa said, nudging rather than smashing into each other in the beginnings of our neighbourhood. ', The flyby was fast, at a speed of nine miles (14 kilometers) per second. 'We set a record. Stern revealed the last picture the craft took before the flyby, and promised better images later in the week. View our Privacy Policy. New Horizons' latest images from Ultima Thule reveal new details. The images were taken from just 17,000 miles away, of an object stretching only about 20 miles in length.

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