Tuesday , April 20 2021

Passing over Frosty: North Bluecoat Science explains why Ultima Thule is indeed a "cosmic snowman"



Spacecraft that brought pictures of the world from Pluton in 2015 went in addition – or billions of miles – to bring the detailed world photos of Ultima Thule, an object in the orbit of the sun beyond the planets.

Last Thule is in the so-called Kuiper Strap, a ribbon of frozen objects circulating in the outer ring of the solar system, the same region where Pluto is located (now the dwarf-planet status). The ring includes frozen liquids, rocks and comets, as well as dwarf planets.

The object photographed this week was created when two objects – Ultima and Thule – came into contact sometime in the prehistoric past and mingled together, giving it its distinctive snowy appearance.

Tyler August, a science communicator at Science North, said the objects had merged rather than exploded when they met each other because they were moving so slowly.

"In fact, two snowballs that, in the very distant past, have made a kind of hit together and are stuck to make a snowman," August said. "It's literally like a cosmic snowman … If it had met at real speed, you know, because it's usually snowball, it's just thrown into the air.

The Last Thule still orbits the sun, but the more an object is farther away from the sun, the slower the orbit. Earth lasts a year to complete its orbit, while the Ultima Thule's orbit is measured in centuries.

"Its orbital period is 290 years," August said. "It takes a lot of time, it's in a wide expanse of space where you have lots of ice that floats or rotate around the sun very, very slowly."

By comparison, the nearby Pluto orbit is 243 years old.

Scientists also confirmed that the object is red from the radiation and is made of frozen liquid (about -200C), is similar to rock.

August said that objects such as Ultima Thule constituted the blocks of our solar system, like objects that collapsed between them over billions and billions of years to create the planets. He compared it to building something using Legos.

"Imagine having a large basket of Legos and building planets," he said. "When you have eight of them, you have a bunch of bits left over everywhere.

"And that's what the Last Thule is, one of those little bits left, very far from the middle of the playground – which, in this analogy, would be the sun."

And such objects would have changed very little, because the solar system was formed 4.5 billion years ago, giving scientists a look at the building blocks of the planets. A bigger picture, August said he was filling some of the gaps in our knowledge of how the universe was formed and where we came from.

"Every world we visit helps us to understand all the worlds of our solar system – and even in other solar systems," he said. "If the only people you meet in your life were your closest family, you would have a very clear vision of what people are like in general. Every different world we visit is like meeting a new person and it helps us to build our sense of what people are and to give us a better understanding of human beings or of planets or planets in general. "

But what about the name, you might be wondering. What is a "Ultima Thule"? The word "Thule" was used both by Greek writers, as well as by Romanian writers and by the authors of vintage books to describe a remote location away from their northern countries. "Ultima" means "more distant" in Latin. Over time, "Ultima Thule" has come to mean, metaphorically, a place beyond the boundaries of the known world.

The election of the name was criticized in some circiels, because the German occult movement that gave racial superiority ideas to the Nazi party believed that Ultima Thule was an ancient country once ruled by a race of Aryan supermen. The ideas of the Nazis that racial purity and deliberate reproduction could recreate these supermen were born from the myth of Ultima Thule.


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