Woodlands, Texas – Less than three months after the spacecraft New Horizons approached the distant, cold space, scientists began to assemble the story of how this object, called Ultima Thule, has become.
In a series of scientific presentations held today (March 18th) at the 50th Moon and Planetary Scientific Conference, mission scientists shared new data on cosmic rock topography and composition, helping them refine the scenarios for site formation.
"Every observation we planned was working as planned," said Alan Stern, senior mission researcher at New Horizons and a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute during the team's first performance. "We had a 1
Shortly after the flight, the team confirmed that MU69 actually two objects are stuck together in what scientists call binary contact. The ongoing analysis of high-resolution New Horizons black-and-white photographs suggests that the two halves of the site are formed separately, and that the larger lobe called Ultima seems to be the result of much smaller objects that come together, such as Dippin. "In a sense, Ultima has a relatively simple Geology similar to Frankenstein here," said Jeff Moore, a New Horizons scientist at the Amas Research Center in California. "Thule here has a lot more stuff. In particular, this smaller lobe sports the largest feature of the depression that the team has called Maryland. (New Horizons is run by the John Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in that country.)
(Image: © NASA / Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University / ESA)
But when the team turns to color images, it is harder to see evidence of this aggregate structure MU69 with a predominantly red surface shows some color variations that correspond to the surface characteristics, but not to the hypothetical "You definitely see some connection to the geological features, but one thing that you can not see any logical correlations with those lumps that could be previous stages of accumulation," said Will Grundy, observer astronomer Oriya Lowell in Flagstaff. "They do not look obviously different from each other."
The new discoveries also touch how the two parts MU69 come together. As the team looked more closely at the subject of the site, they found no signs of a violent collision bending the rock. Instead, scientists believe that the two halves of the object, formed separately, have been hanging around long enough to synchronize their longest and shortest dimensions – like two adjacent pancakes – then very slowly touched , at a rate of about 920 feet (3 meters) per second.
"You can do it yourself, you can enter the wall," says William McKinnon, a partner of New Horizons and a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis. presentation. "This is a very gentle situation."
Although the space ship's stay at MU69 was incredibly short, mission scientists will receive new data from New Horizons for more than a year. This is due to the amount of observations it has been able to make and the slow data rate is possible for the probe at such a distance from Earth. The combination means that scientists will struggle with object puzzles for a while to come. "Ultima Thule is not remarkable," Stern said. "He has presented us with a wide variety of mysteries, and, frankly, I think that on a gram basis, he can even surpass Pluto."