NASA's 2019 began with a thunder and crash, as the New Horizons probe was closed by the farthest object humanity once tried to visit, a strange rock space known as Ultima Thule. Scientists quickly found that Ultima Thule was not an object, but two, making it the first contact binary device ever to be studied with such detail.
Now that NASA continues to collect more flight data, New Horizons team has revealed the ultimate look of Ultima Thule and it's really stunning.
In the new image shot during the New Horizons New Year's flight, the Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera from the spacecraft provides a more detailed view of the surface of the double space rocks than ever before. We can see craters and ridges, as well as a more defined point of contact between the two objects.
"This new image begins to reveal the geological differences of the two Ultima Thule shovels and introduces new mysteries," said lead researcher Alan Stern in a statement. "Next month we will have better colors and better dividing images that we hope will help uncover the ultimate mystery of Ultima Thule."
If you wonder why it has been so long to get such a clear image of the object, everything is related to the distance and the spacecraft itself. New Horizons gathered an amazing amount of information as it made its omission to Ultima Thule and could not send it back at once. The probe will actually spend many months supplying data until all of its observations are retrieved back to Earth.
At the present distance of a spacecraft of more than four billion miles from Earth, it takes more than six hours for radio signals to travel from New Horizons to our planet, and the collection of all data takes a long time.