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New Horizons’ departure images shed new light on Ultima Thule’s shape

11 Feb 2019, 15:00 UTC
New Horizons’ departure images shed new light on Ultima Thule’s shape
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New Horizons took this image of Ultima Thule on Jan. 1, 2019. The photo to the left is an “average” of ten images taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager or LORRI; the crescent is blurred in the raw frames because a relatively long exposure time was used during this rapid scan to boost the camera’s signal level. Photo Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/National Optical Astronomy Observatory
A new set of images showing the New Horizons spacecraft departing from Ultima Thule following its New Year’s Day closest approach reveals the Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) is shaped less like a snowman and more like a flat object, with one lobe looking like a pancake and the other like a dented walnut.
Initial images returned immediately after the flyby suggested the double-lobed object was composed of two nearly-spherical lobes, one larger than the other. Their apparent nearly round shapes were not due to the lobes being rounded by their own gravity, as both are far too small to attain that milestone.
The new images were taken at approximately 12:42 a.m. EST (05:42 GMT) Jan. 1, 2019, approximately 10 minutes after closest approach from a position 5,494 miles (8,862 kilometers) ...

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