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Thursday, March 14, 2019

NASA reveals the first details of farther celestial object explored


The  NASA  today unveiled the first concrete details of the furthest celestial object ever explored for Humanity, Ultima Thule, located in the Kuiper belt some 6,500 million kilometers from the Sun, after the spacecraft New Horizons what has flown over this midnight.
Prior to this mission, the team led by the scientist Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, weighed the idea that Ultima Thule was the union of two different planetary objects.
However, the scientist at Johns Hopkins University, Hal Weaver, said today that it is a single asteroid with a shape similar to a peanut or a bolus, after seeing the latest images of Ultima Thule, still very low resolution.
"That is quite common among the small celestial bodies of the Solar System," Weaver said in a press conference called after receiving the first signal from New Horizons after completing the mission.
According to Weaver, this form would explain another mystery of this distant celestial body: its variations in brightness.
For his part, Stern clarified in that press conference that the higher resolution panchromatic images "will not arrive until February, approximately".
The leader of the mission took the opportunity to congratulate the work of all the members of the New Horizons team, whose task he described as excellent.
"The New Horizons team makes it look easy. It is not. This team spent three and a half years working hard to make this happen. And from what we can see, they got a 100% score, "said Stern, who announced that they will start writing the first scientific article about the mission this week.
Ultima Thule, which was the name chosen by the public in a call from  NASA  to name the object known up to that time as 2014 MU69, comes from a term of Greek origin used by Roman and medieval geographers to indicate a place "located beyond of the known world. "
Although the overflight to that rocky asteroid occurred at midnight at a distance of about 3,500 kilometers from the object, the first sign of New Horizons after completing it arrived at 10.30 local time (15.30 GMT) to the Network Tracking Station of the Deep Space, located in Madrid.
This happens because Ultima Thule is 6 hours and 7 light minutes from Earth, as explained by one of those in charge of this mission.
Another of the challenges of this space mission is to determine the duration of the rotation on itself of the small asteroid, barely 30 kilometers in diameter.
According to the latest findings, scientists believe that this rotation lasts between 15 and 30 hours, in the absence of more data to confirm this hypothesis.
Asked if New Horizons has met mission expectations, Chief Operating Officer Alice Bowman said that from a navigation point of view, the probe "did everything it was supposed to do."
However, Stern could not certify with complete confidence that the cameras of the device were "perfectly focused", although he said that will be known in the coming days.
After it became official that New Horizons had successfully completed the overflight, NASA chief  Jim Bridenstine celebrated that the US space agency, along with its collaborators in this mission, Johns Hopkins University and the Southwest Research Institute, "They have returned to make history again".
Ultima Thule is located in one of the most remote regions of the Solar System, known as the Kuiper belt, in honor of the astronomer who predicted its existence in the fifties, Gerard Kuiper.
The ship New Horizons was six months of hibernation until June of this year, when it resumed its journey to this mysterious celestial object, barely 30 kilometers in diameter.
The scientists and astronomers in charge of this mission hope that the information gathered by New Horizons will help to better understand the formation of the Solar System and how the planets were built. 

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