NASA’s New Horizons mission team has issued the first-ever profile of the most distant world ever traversed, a planetary building block and Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69. Examining the primary acquisitions of data collected during the New Horizons spacecraft’s New Year’s 2019 flyby of MU69 (nicknamed Ultima Thule) the mission crew soon found something far more intricate than predicted.
What is MU69 or Ultima Thule?
One billion miles away from Pluto, it is the farthest place ever visited by mankind. Scientists believe that it was shortly formed after the very beginning of the solar system, the Ultima Thule is about 4.5 billion years old and lies 4 billion miles away from the sun. Its surface temperature is -350F and it takes about 293 earth years to complete its orbit around the Sun.
The recent report is based on barely 10% of the whole data gathered by New Horizons through its flyby. The complete download won’t be finished till mid-2020.
As the discovery of such a marvelous object itself is fascinating, the Ultima Thule offers a lot more to be astonished. Here are the five things that fascinated us about NASA’s new discovery!
#1 It is a binary body
The Ultima Thule is a peanut-shaped binary spatial body. It has two lobes. The flat larger lobe is named as Ultima and the smaller round lobe is called Thule, thus forming the nickname “Ultima Thule”. These two lobes are connected by an illuminated region called the neck. Scientists claim that these two lobes were formed separately and got together by gentle collisions. If the collisions were violent it would have broken it into pieces, due to the impact.
#2 Untouched for 4 billion years
Ultima Thule is believed to be a completely conserved planetesimal, an old remnant from the period of planet formation. New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado said that they are looking into the well-preserved remnants of the ancient past and There is no doubt that the findings made about Ultima Thule are going to improve speculations of the solar system creation.
#3 There is water on the surface
There is evidence of water ice on Ultima Thule’s exterior, but it doesn’t seem to be plentiful. Whatever water frost might be there is apparently either very less or hidden behind other matter, but it possibly hasn’t evaporated due to very less impact of heat from the Sun.
#4 Presence of Organic matter
In appearance and structure, Ultima Thule matches many other things found in its range of the Kuiper Belt. It’s quite red – redder than Pluto. New Horizons investigated at the interior side of the Kuiper Belt in 2015. It found that the Kuiper Belt where Ultima Thule is found is the reddest region and Ultima Thule is the reddest outer solar system object ever visited by spacecraft. Its red shade is considered to be induced by the alteration of the organic matters on its surface. New Horizons experts discovered proof for methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s facade.
#5 The surface has spots of brightness and craters
Both lobes have depressions but only two potential impact craters and a large depressed region on Thule called Maryland.
Ultima Thule is much dark and reflects no higher than 12% of the light that hits its exterior.
The exterior has three kinds of luminous spots: circular or oval spots; lanes that are either straight or gently curved; and a few wide, scattered regions. The most illuminated spots are at the neck and on Maryland.