The snowman of the space visited by NASA last month has a surprisingly flat, not round surprise.
New photos from the New Horizons space probe offer a new perspective on the small cosmic body 4 billion miles away. The two-lobed object, nicknamed Ultima Thule, is actually flatter on the back than originally thought, according to the scientists.
The photos published at the end of last week ̵
If seen from the front, Ultima Thule still looks like a puppet two-ball snow. But from the side, the snowman seems crushed, a bit like a lemon and a cake glued together, end-to-end.
"Seeing more data has significantly changed our point of view," said Alan Stern, lead scientist at the Southwest Research Institute. a declaration. "It would be closer to reality to say that the shape of Ultima Thule is flatter, like a pancake, but more importantly, the new images are creating scientific puzzles on how such an object could also be formed. similar in orbit around the sun. "
The project scientist Hal Weaver of Johns Hopkins University, home of the New Horizons flight control center, said the discovery should trigger new theories about how such primitive objects are they formed early in the solar system.
Ultima Thule – considered a contact track – is the most distant world ever explored. New Horizons whizzed at high speed after becoming Pluto's first visitor in 2015. Mission managers hope to hit a celestial object even further in this so-called Kuiper belt, on the frozen fringes of the solar system, if the spacecraft remains healthy.
New Horizons is already 32m miles (52m kilometers) past Ultima Thule. It will take another year and a half to transmit all the flyby data.