Tuesday , April 20 2021

Last Thule: Preliminary scientific results from new horizons Exploring space



NASA's New Horizons Science Team has revealed potentially important discoveries about a Kuiper Belt object known as Ultima Thule.

This image by Long Horizon Recognizer from New Horizons (LORRI) is the most detailed of what Space Thule has recovered so far from spacecraft. It was taken at 12:01 a.m. EST (5: 01 am GMT) on January 1, 2019, just 30 minutes before the nearest approach from 28,000 km. Image Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute.

This image by Long Horizon Recognizer from New Horizons (LORRI) is the most detailed of what Space Thule has recovered so far from spacecraft. It was taken at 12:01 a.m. EST (5: 01 am GMT) on January 1, 2019, just 30 minutes before the nearest approach from 28,000 km. Image Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute.

"The first exploration of a small Kuiper Belt and the farthest exploration of any world in history is now history, but almost all of the data is in the future," said New Horizons senior researcher Dr. Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute.

Among the incredible discoveries of the New Horizons science team are:

(i) The color of the Last Thule matches the color of similar Kuiper symmetrical objects;

(ii) the two lobes of the Kuiper Belt are almost identical; this fits with what we know about binary systems that have not been in contact with each other but rather orbits around a common weight point;

(iii) The Last Thule does not have rings or satellites larger than one millimeter;

(iv) the object has no detectable atmosphere.

As the Ultima Thule is seen spinning, clues about topography can be seen. Image Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute.

As the Ultima Thule is seen spinning, clues about topography can be seen. Image Credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute.

The New Horizons data transmission will be interrupted for about a week, while the spacecraft passes behind the Sun as seen here on Earth.

Data transmission is back on January 10, 2019, starting with a 20-month discharge of the remaining scientific treasures.

"The scientists can not wait to start digging into that treasure," Dr. Stern said.


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