With the beginning of 2019 and the end of 2018, New Horizons from Nasa flew past 2014 MU69, its first target after Pluto.
Initially, 2014 MU69 is thought to have been two different objects, nicknamed Thule and Ultima, that from a rotating cloud of small and icy bodies formed over time. Compared to known cometary nuclei, the Ultima Thule will soon become part of our inner Solar System in the form of a typical comet.
Ultima Thule looks like a snowman made out of two balls. The first one stands for the head, and it is smaller, why the second is more prominent, and it stands for the body.
Spectacular details were have been revealed during the first three weeks of data concerning this distant world. Our expectations of cometary nuclei were satisfied regarding this body, aside from its inactivity. The ESA’s Giotto mission imaged in 1986 Halley’s comet, revealing a two-lobed core. Similarly in 2010 Deep Impact got pictures of Hartley 2. This way it was revealed that a smooth neck connected the volatile-laden lobes. However, a new standard in cometary imaging was set by ESA’s Rosetta mission.
Now the legendary movies and snapshots of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko show snow, off-gassing, and plumes. The icy materials which are also volatile they are abundant on these comets and they rapidly change phase when exposed to sunlight. A similarity between these comets and Ultima Thule is that they all tumble and rotate. However, there is a difference between them. Ultima Thule is so far from the Sun that its ices remain intact. Ultima Thule does not look different from a typical cometary nucleus, and its place of origin has been finally discovered. It comes from the Kuiper belt.
The Kuiper belt lies beyond Neptune, and it is made out of rotating icy bodies.
Meagan Kozlovs is a reporter for Debate Report. She’s worked and interned at Global News Toronto and CHECX. Megan is based in Toronto and covers issues affecting her city. In addition to her severe milk shake addiction, she’s a Netflix enthusiast, a red wine drinker, and a voracious reader.