The most detailed image of Ultima Thule returned by New Horizons reveals surface details, including indentations on the object's lobes and contrasting patterns of darkness and light in different regions.
27. January 2019
The most detailed image of Ultima Thule returned from New Horizons reveals surface details Pits both on the rag of the object and on contrasting patterns of darkness and light in different regions.
The Wide Angle Shot Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera ( MVIC ), part of the spacecraft Ralph instrument, this latest image, from January 18th to 19th has been returned, has a resolution of 135 meters per pixel. It was recorded at 12:26 pm EST on January 1, just seven minutes before the next approach, from a distance of 6,700km (7300km).
Mission scientists improved the image in a process called deconvolution to get the project out of the details of Ultima Thule's interface. Near the terminator of the object, the line that separates day and night, many small pits 0.7 km (0.7 mile) in diameter are visible. These may be either impact craters or the result of a collapse caused by the release of organic molecules in the first days of the KBO.
Both Ultima lobes have contrasting areas of darkness and light, with the brightest neck being the neck that holds them together. While the cause of these patterns remains unknown, scientists believe they could provide information about the origin of Ultima Thule and the union of the two lobes.
On the smaller lobe a circular feature that appears to be like a crater with a diameter of about four miles (seven kilometers) is visible.
"This new image is gradually showing differences in the geological character of the two rags of Ultima Thule and also introduces new secrets. Next month, there will be better color images and better resolution images that we hope will solve the many secrets of Ultima Thule. Mission Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute ( SwRI ) said in Boulder, Colorado.
Since New Horizons is about 6.64 billion kilometers from Earth, signals at the universal speed of light take six hours and nine minutes each. The return of all data collected during the New Year's onward flight lasts a total of 20 months.
Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, New Jersey, who enjoys astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Rutgers University's Douglass College and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne University's Astronomy Online Program. Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, the guest blog section of Astronomy Magazine, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly, the Space Reporter, and the newsletters from various astronomy clubs. She is a member of Amateur Astronomers, Inc., based in Cranford, New Jersey, and was particularly interested in the outer solar system. In 2008 she gave a brief presentation on the Great Planet debate that took place in 2008 at the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, MD. 19659019]