NASAs New Horizons mission team has published the first image of the farthest world ever explored
A planetary building block and Kuiper Belt object clicked during New Years 2019 flyby of Ultima Thule which looks like a human being in deep meditation.
Called “2014 MU69”, the object — details of which are published in the May 17 issue of the Journal Science
It looks like a human being sitting in a meditative pose, an ancient relic from the era of planet formation.
The flyby of Ultima Thule was the farthest exploration of an object in history – nearly 6.4 billion km from Earth.
The object is a contact binary, with two distinctly differently-shaped lobes.
At about 36 km long, Ultima Thule consists of a large, strangely flat lobe connected to a smaller, somewhat rounder lobe, at a juncture nicknamed “the neck.”
Ultima Thule is very red – redder even than much larger, 2,400-km wide Pluto, which New Horizons explored at the inner edge of the Kuiper Belt in 2015.
Its reddish hue is believed to be caused by modification of the organic materials on its surface.
New Horizons scientists found evidence for methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface – a mixture very different from most icy objects explored previously by spacecraft.
The New Horizons spacecraft is now 6.6 billion km from Earth, operating normally and speeding deeper into the Kuiper Belt at nearly 53,000 km per hour.