New Images of the Distant Ultima Thule Object Have Surprised Scientists

Iwastheone shares a report from Ars Technica: Back in early
January, when scientists pulled down their first batch of data from
the New Horizons spacecraft, they celebrated an odd snowman-shaped
object in the outer Solar System. From this first look, it appeared
as though Ultima Thule, formally named 2014 MU69, consisted of two
spheres in contact with one another — a contact binary. Now that
scientists have downloaded more data from the distant spacecraft,
however, our view of Ultima Thule has changed. A sequence of images
captured as New Horizons moved away from the object in the Kuiper
Belt at a velocity of 50,000 km/hour, taken about 10 minutes after
closest approach, show a much flatter appearance. After analyzing
these new images, scientists say the larger lobe more closely
resembles a large pancake, and the smaller lobe looks a bit like a
walnut. The new photos reveal a dramatically different object
because they were taken from a different angle than the images that
were downloaded first. As planetary scientist Alex Parker noted on
Twitter, “The larger lobe looks to have a shape similar to some of
the pancake moons of Saturn, like Atlas.” However, Saturn’s moons
were believed to have formed near the gas giant, in the midst of
its rings, rather than in deep space.


Read more of this story
at Slashdot.

Source: *FS – All – Science News 2 Net
New Images of the Distant Ultima Thule Object Have Surprised Scientists