Queen rocker turned astrophysicist Brian May writes tribute to New Horizons

Queen rocker turned astrophysicist Brian May writes tribute to New Horizons

Queen rocker turned astrophysicist Brian May writes tribute to New Horizons

Early exploration of its topography also suggests the two lobes - the big one called Ultima, the small one named Thule - came together so slowly that if two cars in a parking lot collided at the same speed, "you wouldn't even fill out the insurance forms", New Horizons' geology and geophysics lead, Jeff Moore, said.

"We are straining the capabilities of this spacecraft, and by tomorrow we'll know how we did", New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern said during the news conference at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.

Ultima Thule's surface reflects light about as much as "garden variety dirt", he said, as the sun's rays are 1,600 times fainter there than on Earth.

Scientists believe that around 4.5 billion years ago, just millions of years after the formation of the solar system, dust and pebbles clumped together to form the object's two lobes - Ultima and Thule.

Ultima Thule, a name that was nominated by 40 people, won the public poll. Cathy Olkin, deputy project scientist, said the object has a rotation period of approximately 15 hours.

In addition to providing a clearer image of the object, the new data sent back to Earth from New Horizons has revealed significant information pointing to its origins and appearance.

The spacecraft will ping back more detailed images and data from Thule in the coming days, NASA said.

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New Horizons conducted its successful flyby of Ultima Thule, which is classed as a minor planet, on Tuesday. The image on the left is an enhanced color image, the center image is a higher resolution image of the object and the right image shows the color overlaid onto the higher resolution image. Occasional astrophysicist and guitarist for Queen Brian May has gifted us with a song in tribute to NASA's successful mission to flyby Ultima Thule.

Images were taken by onboard instruments as the spacecraft zoomed past the world some 2,200 miles from its surface on New Year's Day, just past midnight. "We are seeing a physical representation of the beginning of planetary formation, frozen in time", he said. The previous mark was also set by New Horizons when it flew past the dwarf planet Pluto in 2015.

Launched in January 2006, New Horizons embarked on a 4 billion mile journey toward the solar system's frigid, faraway edge to study the dwarf planet Pluto and its five moons.

This is consistent with other irradiated objects that are in the Kuiper Belt, Carly Howett, mission co-investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, said yesterday.

"Let me say, that bowling pin is gone". More than 100 scientists, including Heidi B. Hammel, a planetary scientist and a media liaison for the science team, gathered at 8 p.m. for a look.

Well, Ultima Thule has now become the first inhabitant of the rocky outer ring of the solar system (the Kuiper belt) that scientists have seen up close.

The probe won't start sending back most of its Ultima Thule info until next week, when the sun stops blocking its transmissions to Earth. For now, researchers have plenty of Ultima Thule data to decipher.

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