On January 1, 2019 NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft visited Ultima Thule- a contact binary object located 6.6 billion kilometers away from Earth. Few days after the flyby, the team released the first set of images.
As soon as the first set of images were made available to the public, many compared the shape of Ultima Thule to a snowman. However, new photos from the New Horizons spacecraft have offered a different perspective on this tiny contact binary floating in space.
Last week, the team released pictures of the object taken after the fly-by. From the front, Ultima Thule resembles a snowman but when viewed from the side, one of the lobes appears to be squashed and is flat like a pancake!
“We’ve never seen something like this before.” said Alen Stern, the lead scientist on the project. Ultima Thule is the farthest object ever visited by a spacecraft. New Horizons is already several million kilometers away from Ultima Thule but is still beaming back the flyby data and would continue doing so for another one and a half year.
What new puzzles the remaining data would offer remains to be seen. All we can say for now is that we know very little about the outer solar system and missions like New Horizons are helping us understand the worlds at the edge of our solar system.
Studying these objects would help us answer questions like What exactly happened during the formation of solar system? How planets form? and many more.