“We’ve never seen anything like this orbiting the Sun,” NASA said in a statement after receiving new images of the „Ultima Thule,” the object located 6.5 billion kilometres away from Earth which was observed by the New Horizons spacecraft.
While the first photos sent back to Earth revealed two touching spherical segments which gave the appearance of a snowman, subsequent images captured as Ultima Thule raced away at over 50,000km/ph have revealed a more flattened profile. „More data has significantly changed our view,” said principal investigator Alan Stern. Ultima Thule’s shape is flatter, like a pancake. „The new images are creating scientific puzzles about how such an object could even be formed,” researchers said. It will take about 20 months for New Horizons to send all of the images it captured back to Earth.
Ultima Thule is thought to be a remnant of the early solar system. The photos contain important scientific information. The departure images were taken from a different angle than the approach photos. As the shape is relatively unprecedented, scientists hope it will help solve some longstanding mysteries about the solar system’s 4.5 billion years of history. “This will undoubtedly motivate new theories of planetesimal formation in the early Solar System,” Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, said.