New images of the distant Ultima Thule object have surprised scientists

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Back in early January, when scientists pulled down their first batch of data from the New Horizons spacecraft, they celebrated an odd snowman-shaped object in the outer Solar System. From this first look, it appeared as though Ultima Thule, formally’named’2014 MU69, consisted of two spheres in contact with one another’a contact binary.

It is safe to say the new apparent shape of Ultima Thule will only increase the interest of scientists studying this object’humans have never observed an object like this in the distant Kuiper Belt so closely before.

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Quite a lot has been going on:

Ultima Thule is shaped like two lumpy pancakes

In the Feb. 2’SN: Vitamin D disappoints, lessons from Kilauea’s fireworks, TESS spots strange new worlds, the physics of worm blobs, bad news about’heart stem cells, DNA tests track Lassa, and more.’

THIN CRESCENT’ This series of images, taken as the New Horizons spacecraft sped away from Ultima Thule, helped scientists determine that its shape is more like two pancakes than a snowman.

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New images of Ultima Thule released February 8 indicate that the faraway space rock is much thinner than thought. Rather than two round spheres stuck together like a snowman (SN: 2/2/19, p. 7), the object, officially called MU69, is shaped more like a couple of lumpy pancakes that melded together in a frying pan.

  • Publisher: Science News
  • Date: 2019-02-08T18:00:41-05:00
  • Author: Emily Conover
  • Twitter: @ScienceNews
  • Citation: Web link (Learn more)

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‘We’ve never seen something like this orbiting the sun’: Scientists are puzzled by the shape of the most distant object ever explored

The most distant object our species has ever visited, a space rock called 2014 MU69, is less snowman-shaped than scientists previously thought.

NASA flew its New Horizons probe by the rock, which is nicknamed Ultima Thule and located 4 billion miles from Earth, on New Year’s Day.

New Horizons flew within 2,200 miles of MU69, traveling at a speed of 32,200 mph. The flyby gave scientists the opportunity to collect photos and information about the rock that they hope will help solve some longstanding mysteries about the solar system’s 4.5 billion years of history.

The first image the probe beamed back showed two reddish-colored spherical segments on top of each other, like a snowman. Subsequent data revealed that the object flips like a giant hourglass. But it will take about 20 months for New Horizons to send all of the images it captured back to Earth, and scientists’ understanding of the rock is changing as fresh perspectives get revealed.

  • Publisher: Business Insider
  • Author: Aylin Woodward
  • Twitter: @SciInsider
  • Citation: Web link (Learn more)

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Pancakes in space? No that’s just the mysterious MU69

At 4 billion miles from Earth, MU69 (also nicknamed Ultima Thule) is the farthest-away object a human spacecraft has ever visited. For the past few years, scientists have labeled MU69 as an unknown, mysterious “puzzle.” After the 13-year-old New Horizons spacecraft eventually swooped by the frozen rock on New Years Day 2019, the object graduated to a snowman-shaped frozen rock.

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  • Publisher: Mashable
  • Date: 2019-02-08T23:01:08Z
  • Author: Mark Kaufman
  • Twitter: @mashable
  • Citation: Web link (Learn more)

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