Detailed images beamed back from the New Horizons spacecraft showed that Ultima Thule, which lies some 6.5 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away from Earth, being composed of two spheres, or "lobes".
By combining data from two different cameras on New Horizons, the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), as well as LORRI, the team also produced a colour photo of MU69!
For quite some time, this model has relied heavily on the theory that small pieces of dust in the protoplanetary nebula surrounding the Sun after its birth collided with each other and stuck together to form larger specs of dust.
Still, he said, when all the data comes in, "there are going to be mysteries of Ultima Thule that we can't figure out". Stern said the New Horizons team would start writing scientific papers next week, based on the data already in hand, and nearly certainly propose another mission extension to NASA by 2020. "Eventually, 2 larger bodies remained & slowly spiraled closer until they touched, forming the bi-lobed object we see today". He and his colleagues plan to apply for NASA approval to extend their mission, either to conduct another Kuiper belt object flyby or explore other aspects of the outer solar system.
In March, NASA and the New Horizons team announced their decision to use Ultima Thule as a nickname for the second stop on their solar system tour, which is officially known as 2014 MU69, a formula that designates when it was discovered.
Initially, the New Horizon's team believed that the object was a spherical chunk of ice and rock measuring 18-41 km (10-30 mi) in diameter.More news: Timetable of Trump's pullout from Syria being questioned
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"New Horizons holds a dear place in our hearts as an intrepid and persistent little explorer, as well as a great photographer", said Dr. Ralph Semmel, Director of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.
New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern called the mission "a technical success beyond anything ever attempted before in spaceflight".
Scientists had suspected that Ultima Thule would not be perfectly round since the summer of 2017, when a global network of observers found the rock passing in front of a distant star.
Just over a day after NASA's New Horizons spacecraft zipped by Ultima Thule, scientists have revealed their preliminary findings of the distant object. The improved resolution also draws attention to the object's "neck", where the two lobes are connected. The new images revealed that the object is in fact a contact binary, consisting of two spheres that measure 31 km (19 mi) from end to end.
The picture came after flight controllers said they had had success in the high-risk, middle-of-the-night encounter at the mysterious body known as Ultima Thule on the frozen fringes of our solar system, an astounding 1 billion miles beyond Pluto. The left image is color-enhanced. "What we're saying is that the lighting geometry on approach with the Sun behind the spacecraft's back makes it hard to see whether the features on the surface are craters are not". The New Horizons team is already pushing for another flyby in the 2020s while the spacecraft systems are still working.