The distant (486,958) 2014 MU69, named Ultima Thule, has created history on the New Year's Eve that it has become the farthest object ever visited by a spaceship. Being located in the Kuiper belt, about 4.1 billion miles from Earth, there are plenty of what scientists still teach. Now, new images have raised even more questions about the mysterious object.
Before the flying, so little was known about the MU69 that NASA was not sure whether it was a single object or, in fact, two objects that circulated around each other. Scientists have discovered its structure similar to snow, after New Horizons began to send images to Earth. On Friday, NASA released a video made up of more than a dozen images showing that Ultima Thule can actually be, uh, much flatter originally thought.
The images were captured on January 1, over 5000 miles from the MU69 after New Horizons rose beyond it. According to NASA, scientists could figure out its shape by "tracking" that part of the images that blocked the stars in the background on a page that was not clearly marked with the Sun.
One lobe looks like a weirdly shaped "nut", the agency says, while the other side looks more like a "pancake".
"We had the impression of the MU69 based on a limited number of shots that returned in the days around the flight, but seeing more data significantly changed our mind," said lead researcher Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute.
"It would be closer to reality if you would say that the shape of the MU69 is more flat than a pancake," added Stern. "More importantly, the new images create scientific puzzles about how such an object could even be shaped. We have never seen such circling around the Sun. "
While NASA's New Horizons have been zip-off with MU69 more than a month ago, NASA scientists will continue to receive information about the object. (The original ratings at the time of its flight showed that it takes about 20 months for the space vehicle to withstand the full load of images and other scientific data.) And, as Stern said in January, the data "will only be better and better! "[NASA]