Latest Image of Ultima Thule Reveals New Details

By Chelsea Gohd | January 25, 2019 4:57 pm

The latest image of Kuiper Belt Object 2014 MU69 (Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Just after midnight on New Year’s Day, NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft flew past the Kuiper Belt object, 2014 MU69, more commonly known as Ultima Thule. Now, the best image of the object to-date has reached Earth, revealing previously unseen details on the peanut-shaped space rock.

This latest image was taken with the wide-angle Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) component of the spacecraft’s Ralph instrument. The camera snapped the shot when the spacecraft was just 4,200 miles (6,700 km) from the object, at 12:26 a.m. EST, just seven minutes before the craft reached closest approach on Jan 1.

This newest image had an original resolution of 440 feet (135 m) per pixel. After beaming back to Earth between around Jan. 18, scientists enhanced the details of the image to make it as clear and sharp as possible. Though, this process (known as deconvolution) will make the image look a bit grainier at high contrast.

Incredible New Details

The new image shows Ultima Thule’s surface along the day/night boundary near the top of the object. You can also make out a number of small pits on the surface, which stretch nearly half a mile across.  You might notice a large, circular feature on the space rock’s smaller half. Using this image, it appears as though this feature, which stretches about 4 miles (7 km) across, is a depression.

It is too early to definitively say whether these features are impact craters or created from internal processes. Both halves, or lobes, of the object also have light and dark patterns. The most obvious of these is the light band that separates the object’s two lobes. Scientists don’t yet know where these patterns came from, but according to a statement from Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, they could help researchers to decipher the object’s origins and how it formed.

“This new image is starting to reveal differences in the geologic character of the two lobes of Ultima Thule, and is presenting us with new mysteries as well,” New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern said in the statement. “Over the next month there will be better color and better resolution images that we hope will help unravel the many mysteries of Ultima Thule,” he added.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
  • Uncle Al

    The most obvious of these is the light band that separates the object’s two lobes.DOES THE BS EVER CEASE! It is a negative image! Nobody anywhere cried “BS!” Take the negative of this negative and one sees…a couple of rocks.


      If this were a negative, wouldnt the shadows on the craters at the top edge be fading into a white background? Not saying this isnt a very processed image, but whatever is going on at this band, its not the same thing as the shadows at the top. Unless of course someone is manipulating specific areas of the image separately from others…

      • Uncle Al

        Ooooh! Feelings! Take the negative of this negative and one sees…a couple of rocks. Theory must be true to observation. LOOK.

      • Erik Bosma

        Use a good image manipulation app like photoshop. it’s not that difficult.

        • Erik Bosma

          Or if using Linux, open it up in GIMP – which is free – and click on colors/invert. It looks just like 2 rocks touching each other. The ‘white’ substance where the rocks touch is actually the shadow of one of the rocks upon the other. It IS a negative.

          • Uncle Al

            Yup – NASA incompetence.

  • Daniel

    Looks to me like 2 big rocks smashed into each other and stuck. Then we came along and took a photo and someone published the negative.

  • stargene

    For those of you who insist the above photo is a negative, copy and
    paste it into one of your art programs and hit the equivalent of ‘invert
    colors’. You’ll see that the resulting image could not possibly be a positive.

    • Uncle Al

      LIAR. False news! The bright ring screams “negative image.”

      Corel Paintshop. Shift-C. Browser ring up image, Right mouse click. Position cursor, hold left click, drag to encompass image, release. Click left to grab.

      Corel Paintshop. Menu Bar Click Image Menu, click Negative Image. Two balls kissing.

      Ohhhh! Feeelings! Empirical idiot

      • stargene

        Okay..actually the bright ring you refer to reminds me of
        bright areas (whitish salts left behind after water/ice eruptions?) on Ceres. Maybe similar actions at their

  • TLongmire

    Clearly it was formed thru a process of physically manifested forces. Both lobes were same size and competed to condense. The circle is others crater and round is relief.

    • Uncle Al

      Wilted word salad.


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