NASA spacecraft sends images of icy object past Pluto

This image made available by NASA on Wednesday Jan. 2 2019 shows the size and shape of the object Ultima Thule about 1 billion miles beyond Pluto. The New Horizons spacecraft encountered it on Tuesday Jan. 1 2019

The announcement came Wednesday from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, and was streamed via NASA TV.

This image taken by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) is the most detailed of Ultima Thule returned so far by the New Horizons spacecraft.

"I'm surprised that-more or less-picking one Kuiper belt object out of a hat, that we were able to get such a victor as this", said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern during a press conference.

Both spheres are similar in color, while the barely perceptible neck connecting the two lobes is noticeably less red, probably because of particles falling down the steep slopes into that area.

"That bowling pin is gone - it's a snowman if anything at all", Stern said during a NASA briefing.

In a lengthy update by the New Horizons team, the group boasts that New Horizons sent back a signal to its handlers letting them know that it had filled its on-board recorders with a wealth of science data that it collected as it zoomed past Ultima Thule.

For a half-year, the New Horizons team had puzzled over the possible shape of MU69, which was little more than an oblong dot in Hubble Space Telescope images.

The photos are the first in the 20-month process to download all the data from the spacecraft's flyby, which is 4 billion miles away.

This image from video made available by NASA on Wednesday Jan. 2 2019 shows a diagram describing the size and shape of the object Ultima Thule about 1 billion miles beyond Pluto. The New Horizons spacecraft encountered it on Tuesday Jan. 1 2019. (NAS
NASA spacecraft sends images of icy object past Pluto

The images released so far are "just the tip of the iceberg", Stern said, adding only 1% of data stored on the spacecraft has now been received by scientists. Don't get too comfortable, then - whatever you prefer right now, that name is going to change.

Scientist Jeff Moore of NASA's Ames Research Center said the two spheres formed when icy, pebble-size pieces coalesced in space billions of years ago.

Ultima Thule has a mottled appearance the colour of the light brick.

These details though will provide scientists with a new perspective on planet formation.

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas also credits McKean, who arrived in Arkansas by Red River steamboat in 1833, with being the community's first postmaster, but doesn't specifically credit him for naming it. The lobes, he said, were really only "resting on each other". It's located in the Kuiper Belt, an icy region of our solar system beyond the orbit of the major planets.

But today's look shows us what lurks in the Kuiper Belt. With instruments like the infrared mapping spectrometer, scientists will be able to tell as early as Wednesday what the ice making up the surface of Ultima contains.

When asked about the Nazis' use of the term, Showalter confirmed that he was aware of the usage and said that the New Horizons team and NASA, including its legal department, decided that the original meaning was more prominent and outweighed the less savory connotations.


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