What Is Ultima Thule Learning Us about the Farthest Place the Humans Have Visited?

Ultima Thule is a peanut-shaped object in our Solar System, far distant than Pluto, like about a billion miles away, and it’s currently the farthest place that humans have visited by now. NASA has sent to Ultima Thule the New Horizon spacecraft that had passed the object on the New Year’s Eve. The spaceship had flown within 2.200 miles from the Ultima Thule and had captured relevant data that scientists could analyze. The study has been published in the Science Journal.

What Is the Data Showing?

First of all, scientists have discovered that Ultima Thule has been frozen around 4.5 billion years in the Kuiper Belt. The Sun is with 4 billion miles away from Ultima Thule, and that makes it barely heated by the star. The principal investigator for the New Horizon mission, Alan Stern, says that in all his years of research, he had never seen an object so unchanged and primordial, since the beginning of the Solar System.

Second of all, scientists believe that Ultima Thule has been formed from two separately lobes that have fused together because of the accumulation of small particles of dust and gas. The study published in the Science Journal is only 10% of the data collected by the New Horizon Spacecraft, and the full analyzes will be complete until 2020.

However, some conclusion could be made about Ultima Thule:

  • The object is there for more than 4.5 billion years, and it was undisturbed.
  • Ultima Thule receives 900 times less sunlight than Earth because it’s about 43 times farther from the Sun. Because of that, the object has been well preserved since its formation, and it never got warmer than -350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Some regions of Ultima Thule are receiving sunlight for decades, and other areas have no sunlight at all.
  • Scientists believe that the two lobes, the larger one called Ultima, and the smaller one called Thula, have fused at the speed of a bullet. But the data collected isn’t showing the scars of this merge as a violent one.
  • Ultima Thula has no Moons or Rings, and it has two craters.
  • Presence of the water is low, only water ice behind other materials.
  • The two objects have formed differently: Ultima is unusually flat and wide.

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Jeff Wilkinson

About the Author: Jeff Wilkinson

Jeff Wilkinson  is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining  Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.

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