Wednesday March 27, 2019
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Clearer Images Of Ultima Thule By NASA’s New Horizons

With an original resolution of 135 metres per pixel, the image was stored in the spacecraft's data memory and transmitted to Earth on January 18-19. 

Pluto, NASA, new horizons
This illustration provided by NASA shows the New Horizons spacecraft. NASA launched the probe in 2006; it’s about the size of a baby grand piano. VOA

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has beamed back the clearest view yet of the most distant object ever explored — the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) 2014 MU69 nicknamed Ultima Thule.

On January 1, the spacecraft zipped past the ancient Ultima Thule, setting the record for flyby of the most distant planetary object in history.

“The new image, taken during the historic flyby is the clearest view yet of this remarkable, ancient object in the far reaches of the solar system – and the first small ‘KBO’ ever explored by a spacecraft,” NASA said in a statement.

The oblique lighting of the image reveals new topographic details — numerous small pits up to about 0.7 km in diameter — along the day or night boundary, or terminator, near the top.

Ultima Thule
The Ultima Thule.

The image also shows large circular feature, about 7 km across, and on the smaller of the two lobes appears as a deep depression.

However, it is not clear whether these pits are impact craters or features resulting from other processes, such as “collapse pits” or the ancient venting of volatile materials, NASA said.

Both lobes also show many intriguing light and dark patterns of unknown origin, which may reveal clues about how this body was assembled during the formation of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.

One of the most striking of these is the bright “collar” separating the two lobes.

“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,” said Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

NASA, earth
New Horizons project scientist Hal Weaver, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, speaks about new data received from the New Horizons spacecraft during a press conference after the spacecraft completed a flyby of Ultima Thule, Jan. 1, 2019. VOA

“Over the next month there will be better colour and better resolution images that we hope will help unravel the many mysteries of Ultima Thule,” Stern added.

The image, obtained with the wide-angle Multicolour Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) component of New Horizons’ Ralph instrument, was taken when the KBO was 6,700 km from the spacecraft, at 12.26 a.m. on January 1 — just seven minutes before closest approach.

Also Read: New Horizons Spacecraft by NASA Detects Anomaly Ahead of Next Flyby

With an original resolution of 135 metres per pixel, the image was stored in the spacecraft’s data memory and transmitted to Earth on January 18-19.

New Horizons is approximately 6.64 billion kilometres from Earth, operating normally and speeding away from the Sun (and Ultima Thule) at more than 50,700 km per hour. (IANS)

Next Story

NASA Cancels First All-Female Spacewalk Due to Lack of Small Spacesuit

"An all-woman spacewalk WILL eventually happen"

NASA, women, space suit
U.S. astronaut Anne McClain waves before the launch of Soyuz MS-11 space ship at the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Dec. 3, 2018. VOA

What should have been a giant leap for womankind has turned into a stumble on the path to equality after U.S. space agency NASA canceled the first all-female spacewalk due to a lack of a spacesuit in the right size.

Anne McClain and Christina Koch had been due to step into history books in a spacewalk Friday, during the final week of Women’s History Month.

But McClain will now give up her place on the mission to her male colleague Nick Hague, NASA announced late Monday.

“Mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station,” NASA said in a statement.

NASA, spacesuit, women
FILE – U.S. astronaut Christina Koch attends her final exam at the Gagarin Cosmonauts’ Training Center in Star City outside Moscow, Russia, Feb. 20, 2019. VOA

“McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso — essentially the shirt of the spacesuit — fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, Koch will wear it.”

Nearly 60 years after the first human blasted off into space, less than 11 percent of the 500 plus people who have traveled to space have been women, and spacewalk teams have either been all-male or male-female.

McClain and Koch were both part of the 2013 NASA class that was 50 percent women.

NASA said the decision to change the plan was made in consultation with McClain after a spacewalk last week.

“Anne trained in M and L and thought she could use a large but decided after Friday’s spacewalk a medium fits better,” wrote spokeswoman Stephanie Schierholz on Twitter.

nasa, women, space walk
The NASA announcement was met with disappointment and anger by many following the much-anticipated mission on social media, with some arguing an all-female spacewalk was overdue. Pixabay

“In this case, it’s easier (and faster!) to change spacewalkers than reconfigure the spacesuit.”

The NASA announcement was met with disappointment and anger by many following the much-anticipated mission on social media, with some arguing an all-female spacewalk was overdue.

ALSO READ: Possibilities of UN Banning Killer Robots Looking Growingly Remote

Others said they were sad that a milestone moment on women’s space exploration had been deferred, but safety came first.

“I’m super disappointed about the all-woman spacewalk not happening as scheduled this Friday but I’m also super supportive of astronauts having the authority to say ‘I would be safer using a different piece of equipment’,” wrote Emily Lakdawalla, a senior editor at the U.S. nonprofit The Planetary Society.

“An all-woman spacewalk WILL eventually happen.” (VOA)