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Ultima Thule is still strange



The farthest object our species has ever visited, a space rock called 2014 MU69, is less snow-white than researchers who had previously thought.

NASA flew its New Horizons probe at the rock called Ultima Thule and is located 4 billion miles from Earth on New Year's Day.

New horizons flew within 2100 miles of MU69, which drove at a speed of 32,200 mph. Flyby gave researchers the opportunity to collect photos and information about the rock, which they hope will help solve some long-standing mysteries of the solar system's 4.5 billion years of history.

The first image probe radiated back showed two red-colored spherical segments on top of each other, like a snowman. Subsequent data revealed that the object flips like a giant hourglass.

But it will take about 20 months for New Horizons to send all the pictures it captured back to Earth and the scientists' understanding of the rock changes as new perspectives are revealed.

The latest sequence of images suggests that instead of two balls, MU69's sections (called "lobes") are somewhat flat. The form is relatively unprecedented in scientific observations of the solar system.

"We have never seen anything like this circling the sun," said Alan Stern, principal researcher at New Horizon's mission, in a press release.

Based on the new images, the larger lobe (the nickname Ultima) looks more like a giant pancake. The smaller lobe (Thule) is akin to a dented walnut, NASA's New Horizons team reported.

 5c5dfdca70a61e4ad978d6b4 1200 (NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / SwRI) ]

"We had the impression of Ultima Thule based on the limited number of images that became returned in the days around the flyby, but seeing more data has changed our point of view significantly, "Stern said.

"It would be closer to reality to say that Ultima Thule's form is flatter as a pancake. But more important are the new images that create scientific riddles on how such an object could even be shaped."

NASA scientists shared the 3D animation of the space rock form below, which was created using images captured by New Horizons as it left MU69 behind. The pictures were taken almost 10 minutes after the probe passed its closest point to the rock.

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<p>  Although these are far from the ultimate images of Ultima Thule, such as New Horizons will send back, they represent the spacecraft's last glimpse of the rock as it striped. </p>
<p>  <strong> This article was originally published by Business Insider. </strong> </p>
<p>  <strong> More from Business Insider: </strong> </p>
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