Mike Wall / Space.com
We now know what Ultima Thule looks like, and it’s not a bowling pin.
The first resolved photos of Ultima Thule have come in from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which zoomed past the frigid faraway object just after midnight yesterday (Jan. 1). The historic imagery reveals that the 21-mile-long (33 kilometers) Ultima is a “contact binary” composed of two roughly spherical lobes.
Photos taken by New Horizons over the previous week or so had suggested that these two lobes are connected by a relatively narrow neck. But the new imagery shows they’re glommed tightly together, dashing earlier analogies. [New Horizons at Ultima Thule: Full Coverage]