“The animation depicts a shape model of Ultima Thule created by the New Horizons science team based on its analysis of all the pre-flyby images sent to Earth so far. The first half of the movie mimics the view from the New Horizons spacecraft as it approached Ultima Thule and has the snowman shape that was so frequently mentioned in the days surrounding the New Year’s 2019 flyby.
The movie then rotates to a side-view that illustrates what New Horizons might have seen had its cameras been pointing toward Ultima Thule only a few minutes after closest approach. While that wasn’t the case, mission scientists have been able to piece together a model of this side-view, which has been at least partially confirmed by a set of crescent images of Ultima Thule. There is still considerable uncertainty in the sizes of Ultima (the larger section, or lobe) and Thule (the smaller) in the vertical dimension, but it’s now clear that Ultima looks more like a pancake than a sphere, and that Thule is also very non-spherical.”
Video Credit: NASA