Yesterday, @nasa’s New Horizons mission team released its best image of 2014 MU69, a 21-mile-long rock (aka “space snowman”) approximately 4 billion miles away from Earth. Nicknamed Ultima Thule, the formation is made up of two spherical rocks, which, NASA scientists believe, touched and fused together during our solar system’s early days, around 4.5 billion years ago.
The New Horizons spacecraft launched in 2006. Its first mission was to travel 3 billion miles (a process that took nine years) and conduct a flyby of Pluto.
Using the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA scientists identified Ultima Thule in 2014. They set their sights on—and New Horizons’ trajectory toward—Ultima, another billion miles beyond Pluto in the Kuiper Belt, and, on Jan. 1, 2019 at 12:33 a.m., conducted a successful flyby of the object.
This image was taken a mere seven minutes before the spacecraft’s closest approach.
📷 NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory