The improved clarity of this image of Ultima Thule has amplified the graininess of the image when viewed at high contrast. Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
The wonders – and mysteries – of Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, also known as Ultima Thule, continue to multiply as NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft beams home new images of its New Year’s Day 2019 flyby target.
This image, taken during the historic 1 January 2019 flyby of what’s informally known as Ultima Thule, is the clearest view yet of this remarkable, ancient object in the far reaches of the Solar System – and the first small “KBO” ever explored by a spacecraft.
Obtained with the wide-angle Multicolour Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) component of New Horizons’ Ralph instrument, this image was taken when the KBO was 6,700 kilometres (4,200 miles) from the spacecraft, at 05:26 UT (12:26 a.m. EST) on 1 January – just seven minutes before closest approach. With an original resolution of 135 metres (440 feet) per pixel, the image was stored in the spacecraft’s data memory and transmitted to Earth on 18-19 January. Scientists then sharpened the image to enhance fine detail. (This process – known as deconvolution – also amplifies the graininess ...