A NASA spacecraft captured images of Ultima Thule, a Trans-Neptunian object more than 4 billion miles from Earth. The New Horizons spacecraft, which was launched in January 2006, flew past an oddly-shaped asteroid while traveling at a speed of more than 36,000 mph.
The frozen space rock, known as the 2014 MU69, is up to 4.1 billion miles from Earth.
The frozen space rock, known as the 2014 MU69, is up to 4.1 billion miles from Earth. ] John Spencer, a New Horizons deputy project scientist told Space.com: "Whether these features are craters produced by impactors, sublimation pits, collapse pits, or something completely different is being debated in our science team."
New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern told Space.com: "Spincer," Spencer said, "we need to know precisely where both the tiny Ultima and the New Horizons were as they passed one another at over 32,000 mph in the dim light of the Kuiper Belt, a billion miles beyond Pluto.
"This was a much tougher observation than anything we had attempted in our 201
READ MORE: KILLER ASTEROID COLLISION 'INEVITABLE' – 'WE SHOULD NOT SURVIVE!' 196590 02] The Southwest Research Institute said: "The science, operations, and navigation teams have nailed it, and the result is a field day for our science team!"
"Some of the details we now see on Ultima Thule's surface are unlike any object ever explored before. "
The 2014 MU69 is the most distant object of humanity ever had such a close-up look, according to Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
The asteroid is almost 20 miles long and is thought to be
The first batch revealed the asteroid to appear as a lumpy, misshapen space peanut composed of two touching lobes called a contact binary.
More photos have shown the rock to appear more like
John Spencer said: "Whether these features are craters produced by impactors, sublim ation lace, collapse lace, or something completely different, is being debated in our science team. "