Gingerbread, Not Snowman…Ultima Thule’s Latest Image Reveals

Ultima Thule, a distant object being studied by the New Horizons probe of NASA has recently revealed that contrary to previous beliefs, it actually looks closer to gingerbread and not a space snowman.

The data was collected by New Horizons on 1 January when it crossed Ultima Thule at a speed of almost 50000 km/hr. It revealed that the structure is pretty flat instead of the bulbous nature that was being suspected earlier. Though the view was primarily dark and black, based on the blinking of the stars, scientists have made the estimate of its new shape. Initially, it was considered to be round objects, but the new view has shown is more squashed. The space object primarily consists of two parts, Ultima which looks like a pancake of giant proportion and Thule is shaped like a walnut that has been dented.

The investigator in chief of New Horizons, Prof Alan Stern, reported that the initial observation was made on the basis of limited data but as time progressed and the NASA satellite came closer, clearer views were obtained which changed the perspective. The most important aspect of this change in the structure is the fact that scientists cannot figure out how something of this shape can exist in space.

When the flyby took the images of Ultima Thule it was 6.5 billion kilometers away from the Earth which is an all-time record in itself as the most distant object ever viewed by a satellite of such proportions. When the image was taken, it was 8000 km away from Ultima Thule. Scientists hope to get a better insight about planetary bodies that were formed about 4.6 billion years ago when they study the composition of the object. The data transmission rate of New Horizon is phenomenal and is supposed to take 20 months to complete the data download.

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