After New Horizons spacecraft has made our thread on Pluto, now another historical encounter with a trans-Neptunian object, Ultima Thule is to be dished:
Ultima and Thule Image Credit: NASA, Johns Hopkins University APL, Southwest Research Institute
On January 1 New Horizons encountered the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule. Some 6.5 billion kilometers from the Sun, Ultima Thule is the most distant world ever explored by a spacecraft from Earth. This historic image, the highest resolution image released so far, was made at a range of about 28,000 kilometers only 30 minutes before the New Horizons closest approach. Likely the result of a gentle collision shortly after the birth of the Solar System, Ultima Thule is revealed to be a contact binary, two connected sphere-like shapes held in contact by mutual gravity. Dubbed separately by the science team Ultima and Thule, the larger lobe Ultima is about 19 kilometers in diameter. Smaller Thule is 14 kilometers across.
since the best resolution image of this far object. most interesting for me is the circular formation, visible at the center of the bigger lobe... Thanks New Horizons sharing image of this monumental artwork of nature with us!
Ultima Thule from New Horizons Image Credit: NASA, JHU's APL, SwRI; Color Processing: Thomas Appéré
Explanation: How do distant asteroids differ from those near the Sun? To help find out, NASA sent the robotic New Horizons spacecraft past the classical Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69, nicknamed Ultima Thule, the farthest asteroid yet visited by a human spacecraft. Zooming past the 30-km long space rock on January 1, the featured image is the highest resolution picture of Ultima Thule's surface beamed back so far. Utima Thuli does look different than imaged asteroids of the inner Solar System, as it shows unusual surface texture, relatively few obvious craters, and nearly spherical lobes. Its shape is hypothesized to have formed from the coalescence of early Solar System rubble in into two objects -- Ultima and Thule -- which then spiraled together and stuck. Research will continue into understanding the origin of different surface regions on Ultima Thule, whether it has a thin atmosphere, how it obtained its red color, and what this new knowledge of the ancient Solar System tells us about the formation of our Earth.
credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Roman Tkachenko ... The central subunit of the large lobe bears a bright ring-shaped feature informally called "The Road to Nowhere". From stereographic analysis, the central feature appears to be relatively flat compared to other topography units of the large lobe. Stereographic analysis also shows that one particular subunit located at the limb of the large lobe (labeled md in the right image) appears to have a higher elevation and tilt compared to other subunits. Similarly to the smaller lobe, troughs and pit crater chains are present along the terminator of the large lobe.
The 'neck' region connecting both lobes of 2014 MU69 is considerably brighter and less red compared to the surfaces of each lobe. The brighter region in the neck is likely composed of a more reflective material different from the surfaces of 2014 MU69's lobes. One hypothesis suggests the bright material in the neck region had likely originated from the deposition of small particles that had fallen from 2014 MU69's lobes over time. Since 2014 MU69's center of gravity lies between the two lobes, small particles are likely to roll down the steep slopes toward the center between each lobe. Another proposal suggests the bright material is produced by the deposition of ammonia ice. Ammonia vapor present on the surface of 2014 MU69 would solidify around the neck region, where gases cannot escape due to the concave shape of the neck. ...
the "Road to nowhere" looked so artificial-, also I found the brighter contact zone so interesting, that I could not resist to cook up my own concept...(:
as my thesis; the two lobes are not cohered very hard and after smaller impact events the two "potatoes" can start to wobble, -and because of their "round" shape- to twist and turn on each other until friction and tidal forces get system back to quiescence.
such "rolling" movement of the smaller body can carve round shape features on the surface of the bigger lobe as the "Road to nowhere" or what we recently see to be formed around the "neck" section, also friction can grind the rock surfaces into "powder", what we see accumulated at the contact zone.
between two low-angle impacts -which can cause rotating movements- might come another from "above" that can make lobes to bounce one small, and after another "light-touchdown" and period of commotion, equilibrium come again.
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