With the flying over of the celestial body Ultima Thule, NASA had celebrated a historical first: never before humanity had approached an object in the Kuiper belt, a region beyond Neptune. After the initial shots, NASA had suspected that the object was composed of two spherical bodies. New evaluations show that scientists with their evaluation here, but probably completely wrong.
NASA scientists once again looked very closely
With Ultima Thule, humanity has the opportunity for the first time to examine an object from the Kuiper belt – a region of mostly small celestial bodies that unleash themselves behind the orbit of Neptune. Already at the approach, the target object had provided scientists with real riddles because, among other measures of the light curve, it could not be explained. At the end of last year, the NASA New Horizons probe had flown over – on a cosmic scale – near Ultima Thule. The scientists quickly explained that this is probably an object consisting of two spherical bodies. However, this analysis must now be considered wrong.
This image had deceived scientists …
… but now you see Ultima Thule different
The new shots of New Horizons as they move closer to Ultima Thule also give a completely new picture of the shape of the object. "We have not been able to make any record of something like this before," says lead scientist Alan Stern on the official mission website. "Our image of Ultima Thule was based on the limited number of images created during the flyby," says Stern. "It would be more realistic to say that Ultima Thule is flatter, more like a pancake." As Stern further describes, this discovery is so interesting because it offers scientists real riddles about the possible genesis: "We have never seen such a thing in orbit around our Sun".
14 images show the true shape
As Nasa explains, in theory the new insights were derived from 14 images, on one side of which there was a shape of Ultima Thule, which was not illuminated by the sun. This pattern was then continued by the scientists, so to speak, observing the way the object obscures the stars in the background.
2019-02-11T15: 01: 00 + 01: 00John Wool