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New Horizons scientists elated as Ultima Thule’s shape comes into view

1 Jan 2019, 22:55 UTC
New Horizons scientists elated as Ultima Thule’s shape comes into view
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At left is a composite of two images taken by New Horizons’ high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which provides the best indication of Ultima Thule’s size and shape so far. Preliminary measurements of this Kuiper Belt object suggest it is approximately 32 kilometres by 16 kilometres (20 miles long by 10 miles wide). An artist’s impression at right illustrates one possible appearance of Ultima Thule, based on the actual image at left. The direction of Ultima’s spin axis is indicated by the arrows. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI; sketch courtesy of James Tuttle Keane
A fresh image from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft released Tuesday showed the mission’s distant flyby target a billion miles beyond Pluto — nicknamed Ultima Thule — has an elongated shape like that of a peanut shell or a bowling pin, and the prospect of higher-resolution pictures arriving on Earth later in the day had scientists salivating for more.
“I don’t know about all of you, but I’m really liking this 2019 thing so far,” said Alan Stern, the New Horizons mission’s principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute. “We’re here to tell you that last night, overnight, the United States spacecraft New Horizons conducted the farthest exploration in the ...

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