New Ultima Thule Image Reveals Small Pits

Posted on January 25, 2019

Pits on Ultimate Thule revealed

New Horizons revealed the best image yet of Ultima Thule on Thursday, 1-29-19. The new image shows small pits on the surface of the Kuiper Belt object. The latest image also shows a bright collar-like ring that separates Ultima Thule's lobes. Ultima Thule has been dubbed the space snowman on social media due to its shape.

Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 (Ultima Thule) is the first small Kuiper Belt object to be explored by a spacecraft. The latest image was taken by the wide-angle Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) of New Horizons' Ralph instrument when the object was about 4,200 miles (6,700 kilometers) away. The image was sharpened by scientists to enhance fine details.

The New Horizons team says the circular collar-like ring feature on Ultima Thule appears to be a deep depression. They say the pits could be impact craters or pits caused by a surface collapse due to the "ancient venting of volatile materials."

Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, says in a statement, "This new image is starting to reveal differences in the geologic character of the two lobes of Ultima Thule, and is presenting us with new mysteries as well. Over the next month there will be better color and better resolution images that we hope will help unravel the many mysteries of Ultima Thule."

Image: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI