Until the 1990s, mankind knew nothing of the existence of the so-called Kuiper Belt. This is not really surprising. After all, it is the outermost edge of our solar system. Not least thanks to the images of the space telescope Hubble, one can now make a pretty good picture of this outpost of our galaxy. On one of the images, researchers discovered a celestial body in 2014, which they named Ultima Thule. Now the NASA probe New Horizons has flown past the object and has shot around 900 pictures. It was one of the most complex NASA missions ever. Because Ultima Thule is located about six and a half billion kilometers from Earth. Never before has such a distant body been investigated.
It takes more than six hours to transmit a signal
The scientists hope for knowledge about the origin of our universe. Because it is assumed that Ultima Thule comes from the first days of our solar system and thus could give information about the then prevailing conditions. However, the researchers still have to exercise a little patience. Because the communication with the probe is very time-consuming due to the great distance: It takes about six hours until a signal has arrived from the base station to the New Horizons. Once again the same time then needs the transmission of the answer. Accordingly, it will take a long time for all 900 images to be completely transferred to Earth. At least a first – still sharply pixelated – picture has already arrived – and caused the scientists already startled.
Ultima Thule will receive a new name
For one can imagine a long-drawn object, while previously it was assumed that Ultima Thule was rather round. The much more detailed pictures in the next few days should then provide further information about the nature of the celestial body. This should then also get a new name. Ultima Thule is only used unofficially until the exact shape of the object is known. The New Horizons spacecraft survived the mission unscathed. All in all, the development and construction of the probe cost around $ 700 million. The money, however, seems to be well spent, because some time ago, the probe delivered spectacular images of the dwarf planet Pluto. In the future, she will also explore other areas of the Kuiper belt from a slightly greater distance.
Via: The Guardian