New Horizons Did Not Find A Gas Coma And Satellites At The Ultima Thule Facility

Video: New Horizons Did Not Find A Gas Coma And Satellites At The Ultima Thule Facility

Video: New Horizons Did Not Find A Gas Coma And Satellites At The Ultima Thule Facility
Video: Alan Stern | New Horizons at Ultima Thule! | NEAF Talks 2023, June
New Horizons Did Not Find A Gas Coma And Satellites At The Ultima Thule Facility
New Horizons Did Not Find A Gas Coma And Satellites At The Ultima Thule Facility
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The robotic interplanetary station New Horizons did not detect satellites, dust rings or a gas coma near the Kuiper Belt 2014 MU69, or Ultima Thule, during its close flyby on January 1, 2019. In addition, the mission team showed stereo images and animations to see the object in volume. The briefing was broadcast on the NASA website.

The search campaign covered a region with a radius of 150 kilometers from Ultima Thule. Ultimately, the station's cameras and scientific instruments found no signs of dust rings, a gas coma that could interact with the solar wind, or satellites up to a hundred meters in diameter. Object 2014 MU69 turned out to be a representative of the "cold" classical objects of the Kuiper Belt, whose orbits remained undisturbed for millions of years.

The color of Ultima Thule coincides with the color of similar bodies in the Kuiper Belt, and the color of both lobes of 2014 MU69 is almost identical, which is typical for "contact binary systems", where the bodies do not merge completely, but revolve around a common center of mass. There is an assumption that a third body existed in the system, which carried away part of the impulse, which is why the "Ultima" and "Thule" touched so softly, and did not merge into one object.

The mission team also showed a number of new images, in particular, a snapshot of an object with increased brightness, in which stars became visible, as well as a stereo image and animation, composed of two frames taken at an interval of 38 minutes from distances of 61 and 28 thousand kilometers, allowing you to see Ultima Thule in volume. These footage helped determine that a smaller portion of the subject (“Thule”) has an area that looks like a depression, and that brighter material is in the lowlands rather than the higher elevations.

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Stereo image of Ultima Thule

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Ultima Thule against the background of stars

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Comparison of the Satellite Plains site on Pluto with the dimensions of Ultima Thule

New Horizons is the first spacecraft to fly past Pluto at close range. Thanks to the data collected over several days, astronomers learned that Pluto has cryovolcanoes, glaciers, mountain ranges and signs of a subsurface ocean, and also saw its moons Charon, Nikta, Hydra and Kerber for the first time in detail. After the flyby in 2015, the mission's leadership decided to explore the Kuiper belt, located at a distance of 30–55 astronomical units from the Sun, and containing bodies left after the formation of the solar system, in the period from 2016 to 2021.

The main target for research was the object 2014 MU69, or Ultima Thule (Ultima Thule - the name was given in honor of the mythical island in northern Europe in ancient and medieval literature and cartography). It is a trans-Neptunian Kuiper belt object that orbits the Sun once in 295 years. The station made a 140-second flyby past 2014 MU69 on January 1, 2019, at 05:33 GMT, the minimum distance to the object was about 3500 kilometers. The images taken by the apparatus showed that the object resembles a snowman, and its color resembles similar in color areas found at the north pole of Charon (Mordor region) and on Pluto, where the surface color was attributed to the presence of complex organic molecules of tholins. The transfer of data accumulated during the flight to Earth will resume on January 10 and will continue for another 20 months.

Read more about the discoveries made by the New Horizons apparatus in our material and on a special page.

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