In early 2019, the New spacecraftHorizons flew past the most distant object studied by people - the asteroid Ultima Thule. In late January, NASA researchers showed a high-quality snapshot of an asteroid from which everyone had the impression that it had a dumbbell shape. It turned out that this view was erroneous - new photos showed that the object has a flattened shape, and one of the parts is much thinner than the other.
A new view of the form of Ultima Thule wasfolded after viewing a dozen new photos. They were shot at a distance of more than 8,000 kilometers after the New Horizons flew past the object. On them, the asteroid is seen from different angles, and tracing the change in shape, the researchers concluded that its two components are not rounded.
According to study leader Alan Stern,they could say that Ultima Thule is as flat as a pancake. However, in the photographs it is not fully covered, and the thickness of the “pancakes” can be much more than it seems at the moment. The image below shows how much the astronomers ’old concept of Ultima Thule differs from the new one. The dotted line shows what its thickness can actually be.
Having received new information about the object,The researchers asked new questions. The most important thing that interests them is how an object of such an unusual shape could form in the solar system. Scientists have recognized that until now they "have never seen anything like it in the orbit of the sun."
Perhaps in the future, NASA will get morehigh-quality photos, and researchers will have the first assumptions about the origin of the object. One of them can be the key to unraveling the mystery of the origin of the solar system - this is what the researchers hope for.
What do you think, what exactly gave the asteroid this form? Write your assumptions in the comments, and discuss Ultima Tula in more detail in our Telegram-chat.