By Kenneth Chang
Ultima Thule, an icy world 4 billion miles from the sun, looks like a big snowman.
At a news conference on Wednesday, scientists working with NASA’s New Horizons mission released several images that the spacecraft took as it flew by on Jan. 1.
The scientists now say with confidence that Ultima Thule long ago was two bodies that got stuck together, what they call a “contact binary.”
“It’s two completely different objects that are now joined together,” said S. Alan Stern, the principal investigator for the mission.
It also looks pristine, almost unchanged since it formed out of a disk of dust and gas that orbited the sun more than 4.5 billion years ago. Studying it could offer insights to how Earth and the other planets formed.
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