The space snowman that NASA visited on New Year's Day is set up everywhere and has a bright "collar" between the two merged spheres.
These are the latest details about Ultima Thule, the farthest object ever explored
A close-up photograph of NASA's New Horizons probe nearing the approach of January 1, released Thursday, shows many small ones Pits on Ultima Thule. They are less than half a mile wide. There is also a much larger, circular depression on the smaller lobe than the head of the snowman. Scientists do not know if they are impact craters or sinkholes.
An illustration of an artist using the New Horizons space probe, which hits Ultima Thule / VCG Photo
. The approximately twenty kilometers long, about 32 kilometers long, reddish Ultima Thule has both bright and dark patterns. The brightest point is where the two lobes are connected. Scientists say the multiple shades could explain how the ancient object formed when the solar system came into existence 4.5 billion years ago.
Senior researcher Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute promises even better images next month. It will take almost two years for New Horizons to transmit all the data from the four billion-kilometer fly-by.
At such a great distance, it takes more than six hours for the radio signals to fly in one direction. New Horizons is already more than 30 million kilometers behind Ultima Thule.
Launched in 2006, the spaceship became the first visitor to the dwarf planet Pluto in 2015. Ultima Thule was his second goal. A third goal – even lower in the so-called Kuiper belt on the frozen edges of our solar system – could be possible in the 2020s.
(Cover Picture: The Kuiper Belt Object Ultima Thule / NASA Photo)