NEW HORIZONS MISSION
What’s in news?
NASAs New Horizons mission team has published the first image of the farthest world named as ever explored.
- New Horizons mission team has published the first image of the farthest world ever explored.
- Ultima Thule, the farthest object known, which looks like a human being in deep meditation.
- Details of the object was published in the issue of journal Science, which looks like a human being sitting in a meditative pose, an ancient relic from the era of planet formation.
Farthest Object – Ultima Thule:
- The flyby of Ultima Thule was the farthest exploration of an object in history nearly 4 billion km from Earth.
- The object is a contact binary, with two distinctly differently-shaped lobes.
- In colour and composition, this resembles many other objects found in its area of the Kuiper Belt.
- Ultima Thule is very red – redder even than much larger, 2,400-km wide Pluto, which New Horizons explored at the inner edge of the Kuiper Belt in 2015.
- Its reddish hue is believed to be caused by modification of the organic materials on its surface.
- At about 36 km long, it consists of a large, strangely flat lobe (nicknamed Ultima) connected to a smaller, somewhat rounder lobe (nicknamed Thule), at a juncture nicknamed “the neck.”
- The alignment of the axes of Ultima and Thule indicates that before the merger the two lobes must have become tidally locked, meaning that the same sides always faced each other as they orbited around the same point.
- New Horizons scientists found evidence for methanol, water ice, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface – a mixture very different from most icy objects explored previously by spacecraft.
- The New Horizons spacecraft is now 6.6 billion km from Earth, operating normally and speeding deeper into the Kuiper Belt at nearly 53,000 km per hour.
Future possible prospects:
New Horizons researchers are also investigating a range of surface features on Ultima Thule, such as bright spots and patches, hills and troughs, and craters and pits.
The Kuiper belt:
- The Kuiper belt occasionally called the Edgeworth–Kuiper belt, is a circumstellar disc in the outer Solar System, extending from the orbit of Neptune (at 30 AU) to approximately 50 AU from the Sun.
- It is similar to the asteroid belt, but is far larger—20 times as wide and 20 to 200 times as massive.
- Like the asteroid belt, it consists mainly of small bodies or remnants from when the Solar System formed. While many asteroids are composed primarily of rock and metal, most Kuiper belt objects are composed largely of frozen volatiles (termed “ices”), such as methane, ammonia and water.