Pancakes in space? No that's just the mysterious MU69

New images of the distant Ultima Thule object have surprised scientists

The photos were taken almost 10 minutes after the probe passed its closest point to the rock.

The incredible images confirmed some predictions and dispelled others, revealing MU69 to be a snowman-shaped world with a rusty red hue that spins end-over-end like a propeller.

NASA's New Horizons probe mission has once again given boffins something exciting to think about.

However, after images of the flying and spinning object were received, Ultima Thule has turned out to be different from the way it had been originally described at first glance.

NASA flew its New Horizons probe by the rock, which is nicknamed Ultima Thule and located 4 billion miles from Earth, on New Year's Day.

It is about four billion miles from Earth and looks like a reddish snowman. New data sent back to Earth has meant they'll need to rework our understanding about the shape of 2014 MU69 (aka Ultima Thule).

But, it spins end-over-end like a propeller.

Instead, the bigger lobe (called Ultima) is more of a flat circle like a pancake.

"Nothing quite like this has ever been captured in imagery", said Stern.

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New Horizons - the legendary spacecraft that captured these images of MU69 - shot the latest sequence of pictures on January 1, 2019, as the spacecraft departed MU69 at 31,000 miles per hour and hurtled deeper into the black abyss of space, toward still-unknown destinations.

NASA scientists shared the 3D animation of the space rock's shape below, which was created using images that New Horizons captured as it left MU69 behind. However, more investigation of methodology pictures and these new flight pictures have changed that see, partially by uncovering a diagram of the bit of the KBO that was not lit up by the Sun, yet could be "followed out" as it hindered the view to foundation stars.

"We had an impression of Ultima Thule based on the limited number of images returned in the days around the flyby, but seeing more data has significantly changed our view", said principal investigator Alan Stern.

Based on the new images, the larger lobe (nicknamed Ultima) appears to more closely resemble a giant pancake. But more importantly, the new images are creating scientific puzzles about how such an object could even be formed. "We've never seen something like this orbiting the Sun", he said. This is the farthest movie of any object in our Solar System ever made by any spacecraft.

It's a odd little world.

'We are seeing a physical representation of the beginning of planetary formation, frozen in time, ' Moore says. By watching which ones "blinked out" as Ultima passed in front of them, the scientists were able to outline the object's odd shape.

Thanks to the close observations, we now know the small, oddly shaped world is 'two objects conjoined, ' Stern says.

The images that shocked New Horizons' scientists will be available on the New Horizons LORRI website this week.

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