NASA’s New Horizons got closer to its target 2014 MU69 known as ‘Ultima Thule,’ and this time it has captured a far better image of the space rock, which now that we see clearer, it does look like a ‘cosmic snowman’!
The first images from the spacecraft were pixelated and blurry, but that’s because they were very far away from Ultima. Here is a photo of Ultima Thule when it just appeared to be a ‘blob.’
New Horizon’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) has finally captured this detailed photograph of the space rock which was at a distance of 28,000 kilometers. This resolution shows that each pixel has a side of 140 meters.
The mission scientists predicted that this space object is a binary and that it formed billions of years ago when two different objects slowly collided and formed from the debris of our young solar system. Here is a short explanation from NASA:
New Horizons also has a camera called MVIC – Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera which was able to render a color photo of Ultima Thule.
If you think these images are much better than the previous ones where we saw a bowling pin, this is just the beginning. As we have mentioned, the probe flew past the distant object at 28,000 km when it snapped this image, but reports show that New Horizons got as close as 3,500 km to the object, which means we’re waiting for the next higher resolution of Ultima Thule!
New Horizons also received radar pulses from Earth for the probe to pick up the radar reflections. If it all went according to plan, scientists would get an accurate terrain mapping of the space object’s surface and its features.
Now we are all waiting for an update released by the Space Agency on the New Horizons mission, and the highly expected close-up photograph!
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.