One of the first important news in 2019 wasthe span of the New Horizons probe past the Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69, also referred to as Ultima Thule. It has become the most distant object that has ever been studied by people - at the moment it is located at a distance of 6.6 billion kilometers from Earth. An object that makes one revolution around the Sun in 295 years contains bodies that can help in solving the riddle of the formation of the Solar System. The photograph of Ultima Thule revealed the shape of the object and the nature of its rotation, and in the future will be able to tell about its geological features.
The New Horizons spacecraft was launched inJanuary 2006, and over the past years managed to visit the most remote corners of the solar system. In February 2007, he flew past Jupiter, and in the summer of 2015 for several months he collected data on Pluto. Then he went to Kuiper Belt, where the mysterious asteroid Ultima Thule is located.
The device flew past the object in 8:33 am Moscow time - the event could be seen on the Internet. During a 140-second flight at a distance of 3500 kilometers, the onboard camera LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) took photographs that proved that Ultima Thule is a very elongated object resembling a dumbbell. According to preliminary data, its dimensions are 32 by 16 kilometers, and two large parts are interconnected by a jumper. It is believed that it is a close dual system.
The researchers assumed that the object is surroundeda cloud of dust. The reason for this assumption was the lack of brightness fluctuations. It turned out that the reason was the nature of rotation - it resembles a propeller, and the axis of rotation is directed directly at the probe. It is assumed that the surface of the asteroid is covered with stone and ice, and the color is close to red. This was previously evidenced by data from the Hubble telescope.
The passage past Ultima Tula was not easychallenge for New Horisons. NASA did not know the exact location of the object, and the possible presence of nearby moons could cause damage to the device. The researchers also had difficulty controlling the probe due to insufficient lighting and low data transfer rates.
New Horizons will send data on Ultima Tule until the autumn of 2019. At the same time, the unit will explore the other 30 Kuiper belt objects.
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