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Ultima Thule formed about 4.5 billion years ago. (Image Credit: NASA)

Ultima Thule: Making New Discoveries Every Day

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Earlier in the week, NASA’s New Horizons discovered an icy world in the Kuiper belt named Ultima Thule. It was believed that Ultima Thule was in the shape of a droplet, but the recent images reveal that in fact, it is two separate bodies which over time got stuck together.

Ultima Thule is roughly 33 kilometers long. The larger part is named Ultima whereas the smaller one is called Thule by the scientists. NASA shared an image depicting the various small icy bodies revolving around the Kuiper belt and with time only two remained. The two separate bodies crossed paths and collided and got stuck together as one. The New Horizon scientists are also describing it as a snowman.

The Kuiper belt remains untouched until now. It is believed that the belt preserves the earliest solar system building rocks. This will help in the understanding of the formation of the solar system. Ultima Thule has not changed since they formed. As for now, there is no evidence of an atmosphere or any moons and rings around the Kuiper belt.

Ultima Thule is identified as red in color. Both the bodies are dark and red, but the part where the two bodies join (neck) is slightly brighter and less red than the rest of the body.

The spacecraft New Horizons is looking at Ultima Thule’s poles and thus making it the same side of the body facing the spacecraft. The rotation is slow and is estimated to be once every 15 hours.

Less than 1% of the entire information from the spacecraft has reached earth. To unravel the full information it will take roughly 20 months. It’s going to be an interesting wait.

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