'New Horizons' mission reveals entirely new kind of world

Listen to New Horizons, Brian May's first solo single in 20 years

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft on Tuesday flew past a small icy object four billion miles from the sun named Ultima Thule - a record-setting mission that will give a glimpse of what lies on the edge of the solar system.

The object, nicknamed Ultima Thule, was photographed by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during a late-night rendezvous on the first day of 2019.

"New Horizons performed as planned today, conducting the farthest exploration of any world in history-4 billion miles from the Sun", said Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Released by NASA, this is the first colour image of Ultima Thule, taken at a distance of 137,000 kilometres and highlighting its reddish surface.

Although NASA's Voyagers crossed the Kuiper Belt on their way to true interstellar space, their 1970s-era instruments were not almost as sophisticated as those on New Horizons, Weaver noted, and the twin spacecraft did not pass near any objects known at the time.

Ultima Thule is either one object with two connected lobes, sort of like a spinning bowling pin or peanut still in the shell, or two objects orbiting surprisingly close to one another.

Ultima Thule, a name that was nominated by 40 people, won the public poll.

Scientists have ascertained that the object takes about 15 hours to make a full rotation.

Light travel time back to the Earth was expected to be some six hours as we await the images that will hopefully be coming in from this distant remnant of the creation of the solar system!

The New Horizons spacecraft, which performed a flyby of Pluto in 2015, passed Ultima Thule on New Year's Day.

Based on fuzzy images obtained earlier, the scientists had said that Ultima Thule resembled a bowling pin.

The New Horizons team combined a low-resolution color image of 2014 MU69, or Ultima Thule, with sharper black-and-white imagery to produce the composite view at right.

This image made available by NASA shows the size and shape of the object Ultima Thule.

Nasa has revealed the first photo of the distant world of Ultima Thule, the most distant object that humanity has ever explored. "This is exactly what we need to move the modeling work on planetary formation forward".

Scientists think New Horizons has enough fuel to visit one more object in the Kuiper belt within the next decade.

Less than 1 percent of all the data gathered by New Horizons during the flyby has been downlinked to Earth.

The images we have of the object now show no obvious impact craters, but there are hills and ridges.

"This thing was born somewhere between 99 percent and 99.9 percent of the way back to T-zero (liftoff) in our solar system, really wonderful", Stern said. "It's going to revolutionize our knowledge of planetary science". "The data we have look fantastic and we're already learning about Ultima from up close".

Time machine: There's more to Ultima Thula than meets the eye, and the images are just the start.

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