The New Horizons spacecraft flew close to the Ultima Thule on January 1 and it managed to take some pictures that revealed something interesting. The scientists were baffled when they realised that the Ultima Thule is in fact flat, resembling a pancake.
“We had an impression of Ultima Thule based on the limited number of images returned in the days around the flyby, but seeing more data has significantly changed our view,” New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement.
Discovering the shape of the Ultima Thule is truly revolutionary, as it is unlike anything scientists have discovered. Such flat huge objects weren’t discovered so far, and this is currently puzzling researchers, who are still analysing it.
“It would be closer to reality to say Ultima Thule’s shape is flatter, like a pancake,” Stern added. “But more importantly, the new images are creating scientific puzzles about how such an object could even be formed. We’ve never seen something like this orbiting the sun.”
The New Horizons mission
The New Horizons spacecraft was launched back in January 2006. It costed $720 and it main goal was to complete the first Pluto flyby. The mission was a success and the spacecraft obtain more information about the Red Planet in July 2015
Now the mission focuses on the 2014 MU69, also known as Ultima Thule. The mysterious object is 34 kilometres long and it is situated 1.6 billion km from the orbit of Pluto. The pictures captured by the mission represent a big discovery.
“This really is an incredible image sequence, taken by a spacecraft exploring a small world 4 billion miles away from Earth,” Stern said. “Nothing quite like this has ever been captured in imagery.”