The New Horizons spacecraft from NASA flew on 1st of January by the 35km-long world, from a distance of 3,500km. The scientists are now struggling to understand more about Ultima Thule, the most distant object ever studied by humanity with a space probe. And now, more than ever, it seems that Ultima Thule is indeed a “window” to the early Solar System and might help researchers learn more about planet formation.
As some of the New Horizons team members reported during a major US conference, the two pieces that for Ultima Thule and make it look like a “space snowman” were once orbiting each other before colliding and uniting at a moderate speed.
In addition to that, this distant space object seems to be flat as a pancake instead of having a spherical appearance, or at least that is what scientists are beginning to understand.
Ultima Thule can help scientists learn more about early Solar System and planet formation
Researchers do not know too much about how the Solar System was like 4.5 billion years ago, so they are excited to learn more, and thanks to Ultima Thule, now, astronomers can shed more light on the early Solar System and planet formation. Ultima Thule is actually made of two smaller objects called planetesimals that merged into this form. The planets are also made out of these tiny objects.
The principal scientist of the mission from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas., Prof. Alan Stern, said that a pristine binary like this has never been seen anywhere in the Solar System. “Theoretical models of planetesimal and planet formation predicted that objects like this should be out there. And the very first Kuiper Belt planetesimal that we visit turns out to be one of them… you can’t get luckier than that. Unless they’re very common,” Alan Stern said.
The Sun is orbited by a band of frozen material, also known as the Kuiper Belt which is placed beyond the eight classical planets. It is fascinating how the Ultima Thule formed and what it can teach the scientists about early Solar System and planet formation.
Sam is a freelance writer who has experience writing in the digital world for 4 years after he quit his job. Sam’s interests in current world affairs gave him the drive to pursue a career in journalism. Sam originates from Russia, lived in Canada for a short time between 2011 and 2013, then moved to New York to pursue his career.