Ultima Thule is a Red Snowman in Space

MU69_image_v1 copy

From NASA.gov:  The first color image of Ultima Thule, taken at a distance of 85,000 miles (137,000 kilometers) at 4:08 Universal Time on January 1, 2019, highlights its reddish surface. At left is an enhanced color image taken by the Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC), produced by combining the near infrared, red and blue channels. The center image taken by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) has a higher spatial resolution than MVIC by approximately a factor of five. At right, the color has been overlaid onto the LORRI image to show the color uniformity of the Ultima and Thule lobes. Note the reduced red coloring at the neck of the object. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

At a distance of 4 billion miles from Earth, the Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule is the most distant object ever visited by a spacecraft.  Nasa’s New Horizons probe took 9 years to reach Pluto, and then 3 more years to arrive at Ultima Thule.  Higher resolution images are being beamed to Earth, but with only a 15 W transmitter and a 6 hour travel time for radio signals it will take days or possibly weeks for the next few images to arrive.  In fact, it will require two years to fully transfer all the data from the Ultima Thule flyby.

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