Queen rocker turned astrophysicist Brian May writes tribute to New Horizons

New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute, New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, New Horizons mission systems engineer Chris H

It will take almost two years for New Horizons to beam back all of its observations of Ultima Thule.

"We were chasing it in the dark at 3,200 miles an hour, and all that had to happen just right", Stern stressed. But when better, closer pictures arrived, a new consensus emerged Wednesday.

"We think what we're looking at is perhaps the most primitive object that has yet been seen by any spacecraft, and may represent a class of objects which are the oldest and most primitive objects that can be seen anywhere in the present solar system", Mr Moore said.

Ultima's current rotation rate, estimated at about 15 hours for a complete turn, isn't fast enough to fling the two balls apart, Moore said.

New Horizons will continue to explore the Kuiper Belt, the unexplored region of the solar system beyond Neptune that is filled with small objects orbiting the Sun (like Ultima Thule and Pluto). It is the first contact binary NASA has ever explored. The left image is color-enhanced.

The team has dubbed the larger sphere "Ultima", which measures 19 km (12 mi) in diameter, and the smaller sphere "Thule" (14 km; 9 mi).

On Tuesday, based on early, fuzzy images taken the day before, scientists said Ultima Thule resembled a bowling pin. Despite its long journey, the spacecraft is still chugging along and could potentially break through the belt to join NASA's Voyager and Pioneer spacecraft outside our solar system-if the mission is renewed, Space reports.

Tesla cuts prices on poor Q4
The $44,000 Model 3 is seen is the most important auto for Tesla , with founder Elon Musk touting it as a more affordable vehicle. Starting today, the company will be reducing its price for Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles in the U.S. by $2,000, it said.

MU69 appears to have few craters or other signs of violent impact, supporting the idea that the solar system's building blocks formed when friction and gravity gently drew together clouds of dust and gravel-a theory known as pebble accretion. Some of the data acquired by New Horizons might shed light on that. He said Ultima Thule was selected as 2014 MU69's informal nickname because its ancient meaning provided a "wonderful meme for exploration".

Carly Howett, New Horizons co-investigator, said: "We can definitively say that Ultima Thule is red".

So how did Ultima Thule form? "From here out the data will just get better and better!" All of the data from the flyby will take 20 entire months to reach the Earth, so we're going to be in for around two years of new discoveries about this odd, distant world.

NASA launched New Horizons in 2006 when Pluto was still considered a planet.

The plutonium-powered probe should be capable of flying through the Kuiper Belt for another 10 years. The spacecraft captured it at 5:01 UTC on January 1, 2019, at a distance of just 28,000 kilometers.

New Horizons deputy project scientist Cathy Olkin serves up a clay model of 2014 MU69, also known as Ultima Thule, after a briefing focusing on the icy object's snowman shape.

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