Queen rocker turned astrophysicist Brian May writes tribute to New Horizons

Katie Ramirez
January 4, 2019

Together they form Ultima Thule, a frozen world that is almost 4.5 billion miles from Earth, more distant than Pluto.

The images of Ultima Thule were captured by NASA's New Horizon spacecraft - and show the object is formed of two spheres, combined into one.

End to end, the world measures 19 miles (about 31 kilometers) in length.

It will take almost two years for New Horizons to beam back all of its observations of Ultima Thule.

"We have far less than 1 percent of the data that's stored aboard the solid state recorders", says Alan Stern, principal investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission. Frozen in time, the object may allow NASA to collect data that it hopes can give us further insight into the history and formation of our solar system.

Researchers believe the spheres were formed from two rotating clouds of smaller chunks of ice and pebbles that coalesced.

The 140-meter-resolution image, taken 28,000 kilometers from MU69 half an hour before the spacecraft's closest approach, reveals two bumpy, reddish spheres, with one three times the volume of the other.

The world is in a region of the Solar System known as the Kuiper belt.

Liverpool fans rage at ‘shambles’ Dejan Lovren after Manchester City loss
Four points is still an impressive lead for Liverpool , who remain favourites to win the club's first league title since 1990. Without a recognised left-back, Guardiola was forced to shuffle his team, moving Aymeric Laporte to the role.

Light travel time back to the Earth was expected to be some six hours as we await the images that will hopefully be coming in from this distant remnant of the creation of the solar system! But unlike those objects, which have encountered more space debris and endured the sun's heat, Ultima Thule is thought to be mostly unchanged since it formed. Before Ultima Thule was intercepted by the New Horizons spacecraft, scientists knew nearly nothing about it, but they were eager for a glimpse of what's thought to be an nearly unchanged relic from our solar system's earliest days. The mission team is now calling the larger one "Ultima" and the smaller one "Thule".

New Horizons spent 13 years travelling to Ultima Thule's location at the heart of the Kuiper Belt.

The colour of the object is now confirmed as red.

Signals confirming the probe is healthy and had filled its digital recorders with science data on Ultima Thule reached the mission operations center at 10:29 a.m. EST (3:29 p.m. GMT). The images, she said, also showed some brightness variations on the surface, including a brighter area in the neck where the two bodies meet.

Ultima Thule is one of hundreds of thousands of space rock in the uncharted heart of the Kuiper Belt, a ring of icy celestial bodies just outside Neptune's orbit.

Jeff Moore leads the New Horizons' geology team.

"Just because some bad guys once liked that term, we're not going to let 'em hijack it", Stern said.

Mission organizers have been criticized for calling the object by a name that Nazis used for the mythical birthplace of the Aryan race.

Other reports by

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER