Since the first encounter with the mysterious Ultima Thule earlier this year, NASA has made several discoveries about the ancient space object.
Now, State Space Agency researchers have made a startling discovery about "the most distant world ever explored" – on its surface are both water and "organic molecules."
In the study published in the journal Science, NASA describes the mixture of methanol, water ice, and organic molecules found on the surface of the Kuiper belt as "very different from most icy objects previously explored by spacecraft."
MYSTERIOUS SPACE OBJECT ULTIMA THULE LOOKS LIKE A HUGE PANCAK AND NASA IS NOT SAFE WHY
well-preserved remains of the ancient past, "said Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of New Horizons, of Southwest Research Institute in a Statement "There is no doubt that the discoveries of Ultima Thule will advance the theories of the formation of the Solar System."
Ultima Thule, also known as the 201
Research also sheds new light on Ultima Thule's geology and composition. The 22-mile object probably originated after the two lobes circled each other. However, it is still unknown why they merged into the object that is visible today.
Scientists have also discovered new features on Ultima Thule, including several bright spots, patches and craters, including an 8-km-wide depression that has probably formed some sort of impact.
Earlier this year, the researchers discovered that Ultima Thule has a reddish color and is considered the "reddest outer Solar System object ever visited by spacecraft." The researchers believe that the organic molecules on the surface contributed to its bright color.
The $ 720 million New Horizons spacecraft will send data from its Ultima Thule flyby by the end of summer 2020. Ultima Thule is located deep within the so-called Kuiper Belt or Twilight Zone, far beyond Neptune's orbit.
In addition, New Horizons also collects observations of other objects of the Kuiper Belt that he passes.
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