Latest Probe Images Reveal Distant ‘Ultima Thule’ Object is Flat
The New Horizons probe passed the object on January 1st and has been sending back data ever since. Ultima Thule is around 6.5 billion kilometres from Earth, at the far reaches of our solar system, beyond Pluto, in an area known as the Kuiper belt.
The initial images returned by the probe appeared to show what became nicknamed as a ‘space snowman’ with two fairly spherical objects joined together in the middle. However, the latest images, which were taken from the other side of the object, reveal a very thin surface between the front and back sides, which has prompted investigators to describe it as more of a gingerbread man than a snowman.
â€¼ï¸BREAKINGâ€¼ï¸2014 MU69 (nicknamed #UltimaThule), is not, as it turns out, quite so round as initially anticipated. Images from @NASANewHorizons confirm the highly unusual, flatter shape of the #KBO: https://t.co/yaAZx8XQqO pic.twitter.com/JQlLiL9Hxq
— Johns Hopkins APL (@JHUAPL) February 8, 2019
This latest turn of events has completely perplexed the NASA scientists studying the object. Principal investigator Professor Alan Stern said:
It is expected to take up to twenty months for all the images and data to be downloaded to Earth, but even at this early stage, Ultima Thule is proving to be a most mysterious and enigmatic object.