Today, shortly after eight o'clock in the afternoon in Madrid, NASA revealed the first images of a new world. Ultima Thule, which by its size and shape (33 kilometers long by 15 wide) resembles a floating city with two large neighborhoods, is the second world that rediscovers the probe New Horizons after Pluto. His photographs, taken 2,000 kilometers from the surface, show with unprecedented clarity (although still improvable) the surface of the most distant object ever visited by a human spacecraft. At the moment it is an appetizer. The probe took 900 images that will reach Earth during the next two years; those with the highest resolution, in February.
The photographs, published during a press conference at the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, show a binary object, formed by two balls, with a shape similar to that of a snowman, which orbit together. As explained by Carly Howett, member of the New Horizons, the analysis of the data allows to affirm that Ultima Thule is red. Jeff Moore, another of the participants in the presentation, explained that these first images have not allowed to see craters, but that there could be hills or mountain ridges. In any case, he has clarified that during the next months they will obtain more information to really know the orography of the object.
Alan Stern, principal investigator of the mission, emphasized the difficulty of the achievement achieved by NASA. "What this team has achieved is unprecedented," he said. "Until the summer of 2014 this object was not even known." In addition, it is very dark and is far from the Sun. "We were hunting in the dark and we have intercepted it at more than 51 kilometers per hour," he concluded.
Ultima Thule, at 6,600 million kilometers from Earth, is composed of the original materials that served for the formation of the solar system and has changed very little since then. The images and data collected during the rapid overflight of New Horizons They will serve to travel more than 4,000 million years to the past and to know how the environment in which our planet was formed could be.