Here’s NASA’s description of this brief video: This animation depicts a shape model of Ultima Thule created by the New Horizons science team based on its analysis of all the pre-flyby images sent to Earth so far. The first half of the movie mimics the view from the New Horizons spacecraft as it approached Ultima Thule and has the “snowman” shape that was so frequently mentioned in the days surrounding the New Year’s 2019 flyby. The movie then rotates to a side-view that illustrates what New Horizons might have seen had its cameras been pointing toward Ultima Thule only a few minutes after closest approach. While that wasn’t the case, mission scientists have been able to piece together a model of this side-view, which has been at least partially confirmed by a set of crescent images of Ultima Thule (link). There is still considerable uncertainty in the sizes of “Ultima” (the larger section, or lobe) and “Thule” (the smaller) in the vertical dimension, but it’s now clear that Ultima looks more like a pancake than a sphere, and that Thule is also very non-spherical. The rotation in this animation is not the object’s actual rotation, but is used purely to illustrate its shape.
Video Credit: NASA / JHU APL / SWRI
This animation was assembled from images taken by the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager after the spacecraft flew past Ultima Thule on New Year’s Day. The central frame of the sequence was taken on at 05:42:42 UT when the spacecraft was 8,862 km past the Kuiper Belt Object and 6.6 billion km from Earth. The KBO’s illuminated crescent is blurred in the individual frames because long exposure times were required boost the camera’s signal level. The Sun’s light is roughly 2000X dimmer at Ultima Thule that here on Earth. This is the farthest movie of any object in our Solar System ever made by a spacecraft.
Image Credits: NASA / JHUAPL / SWRI / NOAO
Brian May is not only a musician. He’s also an astrophysicist who is part of the New Horizons science team.
Video Credit: Brian May / Queen
Red/Green glasses required.
Image Credit: NASA
Better resolutions pictures of Ultima Thule are now coming in from New Horizons. We can now tell that it’s a two-lob object, and the mission science team has named the two lobes “Ultima” and “Thule.”
There are about 28,000 pixels across this image of Ultima Thule. The image I posted yesterday contained 6 pixels.
Color data from the low-resolution camera has been overlaid with higher resolution imagery to produce this first color image.More data will be coming in over the coming weeks.
Here’s the last pre-flyby image of Ultima Thule taken yesterday by New Horizons.Image Credit: NASA
The New Horizons spacecraft took this picture of Ultima Thule as part the last check on its flyby trajectory. The image on left is the the raw data. The KBO is so small that it only occupies two pixels. The image on the right is a processed version that show gives a general view of its shape. Ultima Thule is far enough away that radio signals take a bit over six hours to travel to Earth. As I’m posting this, the first flyby data has just been received.
Image Credit: NASA