It’s a contact binary, two different spherical rocks permanently touching each other and bound together by each other’s gravity. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to 2014 MU69, the small little red world in the center of the Kuiper Belt that NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by for close-range exploration less than two days ago.
New Horizons begins to unlock 2014 MU69’s mysteries:
With less than 1% of the total data accumulated during the flyby sequence returned, the small amount of data has already allowed scientists to begin unlocking the mysteries surrounding the small little world 2014 MU69 that is receiving – as is the New Horizons science team – its moment of fame.
Yesterday, Principal Investigator Alan Stern said that if he had to bet, his money would be on 2014 MU69 being a single object – a prediction agreed to by others on the panel.
But two new images of the Kuiper Belt world taken from a no-closer distance of 50,000 km by New Horizons reveal 2014 MU69 to be a contact binary, meaning it is composed of two spherical objects that formed separately before gently easing together to form the object ...