LAUREL, MD NASA spacecraft, 4 billion miles from the Earth, met its first images of the closest footage on Wednesday at the farthest celestial object that was once researched, showing what looks like a reddish snowman.
Ultima Thule, as a small, icy object is called, was found to consist of two coupled fused spheres, one of them three times larger than the others, an extension of about 33 kilometers in length.
NASA's new horizons, the spacecraft that sent pictures from Pluto for 3 1/2 years, passed by the ancient, mysterious object early in the New Year. It is 1.6 billion kilometers above Pluto.
On Tuesday, based on early, obscure images taken a day earlier, scientists say Ultima Thule resembles a prick pin. But, when better, came closer pictures, a new consensus emerged on Wednesday.
"The car is not a favorite. It's a snowman!" leading scientist Alan Stern informed the world of the John F. Hopkins University of Applied Physics Laboratory, home to the control of the Laurel mission. The painting for a bowling needle is "so 2018," Stern, who is with the Southwest Research Institute, joked.
The celestial body was called Ultima Thule – which means "outside the famous world" – before scientists could certainly say whether it is one or two objects. With the advent of photos, they now call it a larger sphere Ultima and the smaller Thule.
Tula is estimated at 14 kilometers, while Ultima is thought to be 12 miles (19 kilometers).
Scientists Geoff Moore of NASA's research center, Ames, said the two spheres were formed when pieces of ice and sand coalitions turned into space for billions of years. Then the spheres leaped closer to one another, until they gently touched it – slowly like parking a car here on Earth, only one mile or two an hour – and stuck together.
Despite the finishing point, both lobes are "firmly tied" together, according to Moore.
Scientists have found that the subject takes about 15 hours to complete the rotation. If they were spinning fast – say, a rotation every three or four hours – the two spheres would split.
Stern noticed that the team received less than 1 percent of all data saved on new horizons. It will take almost two years to get it all.
The two-step object is what is known as the "contact binary". It's the first NASA binary contact ever explored. Since it was formed 4.5 billion years ago, when the solar system is formed, it is also the most primitive object seen so close.
For the size of the city, Ultima Thule has a remarkable look and is the color of the dull brick, probably due to the effects of radiation bombardment on the ice surface, with brighter and darker regions.
Both spheres are similar in color, while the barely noticeable neck that connects the two lobes is significantly less red, probably due to particles falling on the steep slopes in that area.
So far, no moons or rings have been detected, and there were no obvious craters for the impact of recent photos, although there were several obvious "wild" suggestions for hills and reefs, scientists say. The better picture should give final answers in the days and weeks that follow.
Hints for Ultima Thule surface composition should begin by Thursday. Scientists believe that the ice outside is probably a mixture of water, methane and nitrogen, among other things.
The image of a snowman was recorded half an hour before the closest approach of the spaceship early Tuesday, with a distance of about 28,000 kilometers.
Scientists consider Ultima Thule an exceptional time machine to provide clues about the origin of our solar system.
It is neither a comet nor an asteroid, according to Stern, but an "original planesize". Unlike comets and other objects that changed over time from the sun, Ultima Thule is in a clean, original state: at the start of the solar system, it is located in the Kuiper belt at the edge of our solar system.
"This thing was born somewhere between 99 and 99.9 percent of the road to T-zero (liftoff) in our solar system, really amazing," said Stern. He added: "We have never seen such a thing before, it's not fish or birds, but something completely different."
However, he said, when all the data entered, "there will be secrets of Ultima Tule, which we can not understand."
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