"Bullseye!" Beautiful New Horizons images reveal the best look ever offered at Ultima Thule



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"Bullseye!" Stunning new images from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft reveal the best look ever seen at Earth's 4 BILLION Earth object

  • The new images of Horizons show the MU69 object at a resolution of about 110 feet per pixel
  • They offer the best opportunity to study the surface features of the remote object.
  • NASA says new views have exposed bright spots and bumps on the surface

Cheyenne Macdonald For Dailymail.com

NASA has released the sharpest images of an object of the Kuiper belt to four billion kilometers.

The New Horizons spacecraft approached the 2014 MU69 object, nicknamed Ultima Thule, in the early hours of New Year's Day, closely capturing the farthest object a spacecraft has ever visited.

It is a remarkable feat. The mission team said it achieved its ambitious goal with a series of incredibly detailed images, obtained just minutes before New Horizons' closest approach.

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With a resolution of about 33 meters (pixel), they now offer the best opportunity to study the characteristics of the surface of the distant object. In addition, they exposed a number of features that were previously hidden. This includes a series of bright spots and bumps

With a resolution of about 33 meters (pixel), they now offer the best opportunity to study the characteristics of the surface of the distant object. In addition, they exposed a number of features that were previously hidden. This includes a series of bright spots and bumps

With a resolution of about 33 meters (pixel), they now offer the best opportunity to study the characteristics of the surface of the remote object. In addition, they exposed a number of features that were previously hidden. This includes a series of bright spots and bumps

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT ULTIMA THULE?

New Horizons first captured images of double lobe space rock, more than a billion kilometers from Pluto, when it reached New Year's Day.

It is about four billion kilometers from Earth and looks like a reddish snowman.

Based on New Horizons' observations to date, scientists say Ultima has a "very steady" rotation period of about 15 hours.

But he turns like a propeller.

The last images distorted the initial hypotheses, showing that it was not really composed of spheroidal segments, as was originally thought, but that its two lobes are flat like pancakes.

According to lead investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), New Horizons' close-up footage of MU69 marks a real feat.

"To get these images, we needed to know exactly where the smallest Ultima and New Horizons were at all times, crossing at a speed of more than 50,000 km / h in the dim light of the Kuiper belt, at a distance of million km from Pluto.

"These" stretched lens "observations were risky because there was a real chance that we only had one part of Ultima in the narrow field of view of the camera," Stern said. .

"But the scientific, operational and navigation teams have understood this well. The result is a field day for our science team! Some of the details we now see on the surface of Ultima Thule do not look like anything ever explored before. "

Recently released images were captured by LORRI (Long Range Reconnaissance Imager) six and a half minutes before the closest approach to MU69 at 12:33 EST on January 1st.

With a resolution of about 33 meters (pixel), they now offer the best opportunity to study the characteristics of the surface of the remote object.

In addition, they exposed a number of features that were previously hidden.

This includes bright, circular dots and a series of small dark pits near the boundary between the dark and sunny sides.

According to lead investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), the close-up images of New Horizons from MU69 are a real feat.

According to lead investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), the close-up images of New Horizons from MU69 are a real feat.

According to lead investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), New Horizons' close-up footage of MU69 marks a real feat.

We do not know yet who is responsible for these nicks on the surface.

"Our scientific team is debating whether these features are craters produced by impactors, sublimation pits, collapse pits or any other problem," said John Spencer, SwRI project scientist. .

New Horizons is now nearly 4.13 billion miles (6.64 billion kilometers) from Earth, says NASA – but it is still alive and well.

Transmissions from the distant spacecraft take six hours and nine minutes to reach NASA's Deep Space network antennas.

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