March 24, 2019

Ultima Thule doesn't have any atmosphere, New Horizons data shows

06 January 2019, 07:59 | Edward Lowe

Ultima Thule doesn't have any atmosphere, New Horizons data shows

Ultima Thule

NASA got the first photo of an interplanetary probe "New Horizons", which flew by the most remote object of the solar system, as BBC reported.

Besides finding no evidence of an atmosphere, the initial data analysis also found no evidence of rings or satellites larger than one mile in diameter orbiting Ultima Thule, the U.S. space agency said in a statement on Thursday.

Four billion miles from the sun floats Ultima Thule, an icy celestial body that Nasa scientists announced is aptly shaped like a giant snowman.

Brian May, an astrophysicist better known as a guitarist with the rock band Queen, created the stereo images released Thursday.

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The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland designed and built New Horizons and is managing the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

"The Prize! For those of us who waited with bated breath for the Ultimate Stereo of Ultima Thule. here it is!" tweeted May. New Horizons imaged MU69 in full sunlight, making it hard to see anything but vague shapes of ridges. He suspects there might be at least a couple moons a few hundred miles (kilometers) out.

As for impact craters, lead scientist Alan Stern said he'd be surprised if none turn up.

"New Horizons is like a time machine, taking us back to the birth of the solar system", Jeff Moore, and geologist and geophysicist with the New Horizons team, said in a statement.

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The color of Ultima Thule matches the color of similar worlds in the Kuiper Belt, as determined by telescopic measurements.

New Horizons' latest target has never been more clear.

The pictures-taken by the New Horizons spacecraft from as close as 17,000 miles away-are the closest and most detailed look at the Kuiper Belt object to date, revealing an appearance quite unlike any cosmic body known to science. It will keep pressing farther out, observing other objects from afar, and measuring dust and particles. And team members plan a new mission proposal to NASA next year that could include another flyby, as long as funds allow for it.

In the meantime, he'll come up with a formal name for Ultima Thule, to recommend to the International Astronomical Union, the deciding body. "We had a rough colour from Hubble but now we can definitely say that Ultima Thule is red", added colleague Carly Howett, also from SwRI.

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