NASA scientists got a new glimpse at Ultima Thule as one of their shuttle flew past the distant object. Located four billion miles from Earth, researchers at NASA may need to reexamine the shape of the object itself as well as their understanding of planets. The occasion was hailed as uncommon by Alan Stern, principal investigator on the New Horizons mission.
He said: “Nothing quite like this has ever been captured in imagery.
“We’ve never seen something like this orbiting the Sun.”
New Horizons venture researcher, Hal Weaver included: “This will undoubtedly motivate new theories of planetesimal formation in the early solar system.”
Initially portrayed as resembling a snowman, the new pictures show it to be increasingly similar to two pancakes.
It was known as the snowman as Ultima Thule looked like two spheres sitting over one another yet those have now been defunct because of the new pictures.
Mr Stern stated: “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.
“It would be closer to reality to say Ultima Thule’s shape is flatter, like a pancake.
“But more importantly, the new images are creating scientific puzzles about how such an object could even be formed.”
Ultima Thule floats on the edge of our solar system in the Kuiper Belt and had initially thought to be an oval-shaped as it had not been lit by the Sun.
The pictures were caught by the New Horizons probe as it hustled past after its New Years flyby.
New Horizons started its work on Ultima Thule subsequent to investigating Pluto and took the pictures only 10 minutes after it gone by the object.
Mr Stern included: “This really is an incredible image sequence, taken by a spacecraft exploring a small world four billion miles away from Earth.”