Since its first meeting with the mysterious Ultima Thule earlier this year, NASA has made several discoveries about the ancient space object.
Now, researchers from the government space agency have made a surprising discovery about "the most distant world ever explored": there is both water and "organic molecules".
Research published in the scientific journal Science, NASA, describes the mixture of methanol, water ice and organic molecules on the surface of the Kuiper Belt object as "very different from most frozen objects previously explored by spacecraft ".
ULTIMA THULE, A MYSTERIOUS SPATIAL OBJECT, LIKE A GIANT PANCAKE AND NASA DOES NOT KNOW WHY
"We are looking at the well-preserved remains of the ancient past," said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in a statement. "There is no doubt that the discoveries made on Ultima Thule will advance the theories of solar system formation."
Also known as the MU69 2014, Ultima Thule lies 4 billion kilometers from the Earth and has captivated the curiosity of scientists since they discovered that its appearance resembled that of a snowman. . It has two distinct and flat segments and is considered an "ancient relic", probably forming "billions of years ago".
The research also brings a new light on the geology and composition of Ultima Thule. The 22 km long object is probably formed after rotating both lobes. However, it is still unclear what drove them to merge with the object seen today.
Scientists have also discovered new features on Ultima Thule, including several bright spots, patches and craters, including a 5-mile-wide depression that was probably caused by some kind of impact.
Earlier this year, researchers discovered that Ultima Thule had a reddish color and was considered "the most red outer solar system object ever visited by a spaceship". Researchers believe that organic molecules on the surface have contributed to its vibrant color.
Traveling at approximately 33,000 miles at the time, the $ 720-million New Horizons satellite will continue to send data from its flight over the Ultima Thule until the end of the day. Summer of 2020. Ultima Thule lies at the heart of the so-called Kuiper belt or Twilight orbit Neptune.
In addition, New Horizons will also collect observations of other objects in the Kuiper belt that it passes.
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