New Horizons images reveal odd shape of Ultima Thule space object

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By Jay Pasachoff

NASA’s far-flung New Horizons spacecraft has revealed for the first time a clear picture of Ultima Thule, the icy object it flew by shortly after midnight on New Year’s Day.

The city-size object is made up of a pair of roughly spherical lobes, mission scientists said at a press conference Wednesday at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, to discuss the new findings.

The scientists dubbed the larger lobe “Ultima,” the smaller one “Thule.”

“The bowling pin is gone,” Alan Stern, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and the mission’s principal investigator, said, referring to the shape scientists had preliminarily ascribed to the object. “It’s a snowman if it’s anything at all.”

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